Having a will can make things much easier for your loved ones in the event of your death. It’s important to make sure that your will is valid as, unfortunately, mistakes are often not identified until it is too late to rectify them. Making a will can be more complicated than people anticipate, but our specialist wills lawyers can help to make the process of writing or updating your will straightforward and stress-free.
What is a will?
A will is a legal document which sets out what should happen to your estate (your possessions, property and money) after you die. It will also name who shall be responsible for administering your estate, who will care for your children upon your passing and express your wishes in respect of certain arrangements, such as your funeral.
Do I need a will?
You need a will if you want to make sure your estate is dealt with in a particular way after you die. If you die intestate (without having made a valid will), the law decides how your estate will be distributed. This might not reflect your wishes.
Wills are particularly important if you have children or other people who rely on you financially, and especially in “blended” families where one or both partners have children from previous relationships.
Having a valid will can also make things much easier for your loved ones, help your family to avoid conflict after you die, and potentially reduce the amount of inheritance tax which is payable on your estate. Our wills lawyers can provide advice on estate planning and inheritance tax.
When should I update my will?
It is always best to review your will every 2-5 years. It is important to change a will when your circumstances change, such as getting married, divorced, or having children.
If you have got married, it will have had the effect of automatically revoking your will unless it was made ‘in anticipation of’ your marriage. New wills should be prepared for both yourself and your spouse.
Divorce does not revoke your will, but any clauses in which your ex-partner is named will be treated as though that ex-partner has predeceased you. A new will should be considered whilst you are going through the divorce process to protect your assets. You can ask your divorce or wills solicitor for advice.
Tax laws also change, so an older will may not reflect the most tax efficient way of dealing with your estate. And you should check that you are still happy with the individuals you have named as the executors of your will.
If you wrote your own will, you may want to have it reviewed by a qualified wills lawyer.
If I am married or in a civil partnership why do I need a will – doesn’t my spouse or civil partner receive everything anyway?
This is a common misconception. For many couples, this may well be the case but it is entirely dependent on the value of your estate and whether you have any progeny (children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren).
If your estate exceeds £250,000, it may be divided between your spouse and progeny, rather than just going to your spouse. Making a will can ensure that your estate is dealt with in accordance with your wishes and divided as you would want it to be.
I have married for a second time and we both have children. How do we protect assets for our own children while providing for one another at the same time?
Blended families are more and more common. There are options available to you such as the formation of a trust under your will. This can allow your second spouse to live in any property you own until their death (or wilful departure), but also ensure that the property will ultimately go to your children.
Can I exclude children from my will?
You can include or exclude anyone you wish from your will. You will need to consider any potential future claims on your estate depending on how this is distributed. There are ways that you can mitigate any potential claims and so seeking legal advice from a qualified wills lawyer is advisable. Making sure that your will is valid is important for protecting your estate from inheritance claims.
Can a beneficiary be an executor or witness?
Your executor can be a beneficiary under your will. A witness cannot also be a beneficiary as this may result in an invalid distribution.
Can I write my own will?
Yes, it is possible to write your own will, but if mistakes come to light after your death it will be too late to rectify any problems. Mistakes could mean that your will is invalid and the people or charities you have provided for may not benefit, despite your wishes. Consider discussing your will with a solicitor first, or asking them to review a will you have already prepared.
How do I make a will?
We would always recommend seeking legal advice before making a will, particularly if your circumstances may be complicated.
Contact us to speak to a wills lawyer from our private client team.
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