The Importance of Having a Will
Lewis Thompson, Associate Solicitor at Booth Ince and Knowles Solicitors discusses the importance of having a Will.
What is a Will?
A Will more formally known as a Last Will and Testament is a legal document whereby the writer sets out their directions and wishes as to how they wish for their affairs, money, property and finances to be dealt with upon their death.
What if I die without a Will?
If you die without a Will you are said to die intestate. If you die intestate, this means that your money and your affairs are dealt with in accordance with Section 46 of the Administration of Estates Act 1925. These are more commonly known as the intestacy rules.
The main consideration with dying intestate is that the intestacy rules are pre-determined. The rules are set out by law as to how your estate should be distributed following your death in the absence of you having a Will. This may of course have an undesired outcome for you, leaving friends and loved ones that you would have otherwise wanted to benefit.
It has become even more important to have a Will of recent as intestate estates take a lot longer when applying for probate (Letters of Administration) with the court than they do if you were to die with a Will.
What should I include within my Will?
The answer to this is as much detail possible. Your solicitor will take you through details of what you should include within your Will when they speak with you. To give you an idea, the following are common in most Wills:
- Details of your chosen Executors and Trustees;
- Details of any pecuniary legacies you wish to leave. These are specific gifts of money gifted in your Will;
- Details of any specific legacies you wish to leave. These are items that you wish to gift under your Will (these may include any heirlooms or sentimental items such as a wedding ring, engagement ring, watches etc);
- Details of your residuary estate. This is the remainder of your estate that you wish to gift following the payment of any debts and/or funeral expenses and any other gifts mentioned in the Will etc;
- If you have children under the age of 18, details of any guardian(s) you wish to appoint for these children;
- Details of funeral wishes. Your preferences over burial or cremation etc.
Your Will must be tailored to the your wishes. Your instructions for your Will should be taken in detail by your solicitor and can include some of the above considerations. The above list is non-exhaustive.
Which of my assets will be dealt with as part of my Will?
Any of your property, bank accounts, investments etc. in your sole name will pass under your Will to your chosen beneficiaries following your death. If you own an asset jointly with someone, unless otherwise determined, this asset will pass to the surviving joint holder(s) upon your death and not under your Will.
Pension policies and insurance policies with beneficiaries already determined by the companies they are held with do not usually fall pass under your Will. If you have a pension or insurance policy like this you should look to speak with the provider and detail with them how you wish for any benefits to be paid after your death.
Property and other assets can be held jointly and still pass under your Will if the joint ownership is severed (or already held “severally”). You should speak to your solicitor about this area should you be concerned.
How many Executors and Trustees should I have?
You should look to appoint two to three Executors and Trustees within your will to avoid issues of the eventuality of one of your Executors/Trustees dying before you.
As long as the Executor/Trustee appointed is over the age of 18 years old and has the capacity to act they can be appointed.
Can an Executor and or Trustee benefit under my Will?
Absolutely. It is a common misconception that Executors and Trustees cannot benefit from the Will.
How soon should I be making a Will?
It is important for you to make a Will as soon as possible particularly, if you have concerns over what should happen to your estate should you die. If you have children, it is more so important to have a Will to ensure that they are provided for following your death and that you have appointed Testamentary Guardians in place should you die and they are still under the age of 18.
Can a Will be challenged?
Yes. All Wills can be challenged. “Can the Will I have made be successfully challenged?” is a better question to ask.
It is important to instruct a solicitor to draft and execute your Will. The solicitor can ensure that all relevant questions are asked and that all relevant issues pertinent to your circumstances are dealt with following your death to avoid complications.