There are a surprising number of things to consider when writing a will.
From beneficiaries to executors to why it’s even worth writing a will in the first place, there is a lot to think about.
Here is an easy list of questions to ask yourself to make the process easier.
Why Write A Will?
Only an official will ensure that your estate – your money, property, investments, shares, and other possessions – will go to the people you wish them to after you die.
There are many common post-bereavement situations in which most people imagine a certain outcome happens automatically. In reality it might not. There are also many situations – as well as opportunities – that are easy to overlook.
For example, writing a will gives you the chance to:
1) Name guardians for your children
Most people aren’t aware that naming close friends or family members as godparents of your children isn’t legally binding.
If you don’t have a will naming a specific guardian or guardians, it will often be down to the family courts to decide who should care for your children.
Writing a will is the best way to make sure your children will be in the charge of the people you trust.
2) Safeguard your partner
If you’re not officially married as far as the state is concerned, your partner is not entitled to any part of your estate if you were to pass away.
Many people who had considered themselves effectively married – even for decades – have left behind serious financial problems for their surviving partner because their affairs are reliant on one another yet legally separate.
This means one of the most important things to consider when writing a will in the UK is the legal status of your relationship with your partner and making sure they’re named in your will.
3) Protect your loved ones
An up-to-date will protects your loved ones’ financial future by ensuring they receive what you want them to receive from your estate.
Yet there are many other less obvious ways a will protects your loved ones:
1. From stress – your family will already be dealing with the pain of your passing. A will that is unclear or doesn’t exist adds extra stress and potential financial hardship as everything needs to be sorted out or litigated.
2. From argument – apart from the loss itself, one of the saddest things about bereavement is when it causes a rift in the family left behind. Making sure your will is clear and well-prepared avoids arguments and contention between your loved ones.
3. From paying higher tax – the amount of Inheritance Tax that needs to be paid on your estate can be reduced if your will is made in a certain way.
4) Make funeral arrangements
Though funeral instructions left in a will aren’t necessarily legally binding, last requests are usually followed.
You might consider your thoughts on things like organ donation, your tombstone, or where you would like your ashes to be scattered.
5) Ensure pets are cared for
One final often-overlooked part of the family that can be taken care of in your will are your pets.
Like all the people you name to receive something from your estate that comes with responsibility attached, you should check with the person you name to care for your pets that they are willing to do so.
What Is A Beneficiary?
In your will, a beneficiary is a person or organisation you name who will receive some part of your estate.
Choosing beneficiaries with care (and getting professional advice on how to do it) helps you relieve the burden on those you leave behind.
As well as ensuring those who you wish to take care of are provided for, it does this by minimising the amount of Inheritance Tax that needs to be paid.
Who Should You Include In Your Will?
You might want to name any or all of the following as beneficiaries in your will:
- Your partner, civil partner, or spouse
- Your children (if they are under 18 this should be done through a trust)
- Friends and family members
- Charities (as well as supporting worthy causes, this can lead to tax breaks)
What Is An Executor?
It is the job of an executor to a Will to properly administer your estate. They ensure everyone named in your will receives what you wanted them to receive. They also handle all the paperwork, admin, and paying of tax and other costs.
It’s good practice to choose more than one executor, just in case they were to unexpectedly pre-decease you. Naming two executors is fairly standard, though you can name up to four.
It’s worth putting some thought into who you want to be the executors of your will as it’s a job that comes with some responsibility. It’s also possible for them to refuse.
The most commonly named executors are friends and family members or a professional such as a solicitor, accountant, or public trustee.
Once you have named the executors, beneficiaries, and made sure you’ve taken full advantage of the benefits and things to consider when writing a will, you’ll have done everything to protect your loved ones when you’re gone. Even if that day is, as we all hope, long in the future.
Have You Considered Everything You Need To When Writing A Will?
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