Helpful guide to Wills
Wills are a difficult subject for a lot of people. However, it helps to remember that they can save your loved ones a lot of difficulty in the future. Dying without a Will (dying intestate as it is known) can leave huge risks for the Estate that you may leave. There is no guarantee that it will go to whom you would wish and a significantly higher proportion may end up with the Taxman than you would like.
Dying without leaving a Will also rules out gifts to charity or friends that you would like to make. It can also be a cause of friction for a family if there are complex family arrangements involved.
To help with this process, SW Probate Services have put together a short guide to help you get started planning your Will.
What should be included in a will
Now you’ve decided that you a new Will or to update an existing one, you should give some thought to the major points that you want included in your Will. You should consider such things as:-
- how much money and what property and possessions you have, for example, property, savings, pensions, insurance policies, bank and building society accounts and shares
- who you want to benefit from your Will. You should make a list of all the people to whom you wish to leave money or possessions. These people are known as beneficiaries. You also needs to consider whether you wish to leave any money to charity
- who should look after any children aged under 18
- who is going to administer the estate and carry out your wishes as set out in the Will. These people are known as the executors (see below).
- who to appoint as executors
Who are executors?
Executors are the people who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes and for sorting out the estate. They will have to collect together all the assets of the estate, deal with all the paperwork and pay all the debts, taxes, funeral and administration costs out of money in the estate. They will then need to pay out the gifts and transfer any property to beneficiaries.
It is not necessary to appoint more than one executor although we generally advise that you do so for, an example being, in case one of them dies. It is common to appoint two, but up to four executors can take on responsibility for administering the will after a death. Most people tend to appoint one or more of these mentioned below:-
- relatives or friends
- solicitors, accountants or probate specialists
In England and Wales, the Public Trustee or in some cases the Official Solicitor, will be appointed if there is no one else willing and able to act.
It is important to choose executors with considerable care since their job involves a great deal of work and responsibility. You should always approach anyone you are thinking of appointing as an executor to see if they will agree to take on the responsibility. If someone is appointed who is not willing to be an executor, they have a right to refuse.
If an executor dies, any other surviving executor(s) can deal with the estate. If there are no surviving executors, it is recommended to update your Will.
What is required for a valid Will?
In order for your Will to be valid, it must be:-
- made by a person who is 18 years old or over; and
- made voluntarily and without pressure from any other person; and
- made by a person who is of sound mind. This means the person must be fully aware of the nature of the document being written or signed and aware of the property and the identify of the people who may inherit;
- in writing; and
- signed by the person making the will in the presence of two witnesses; and
- signed by the two witnesses, in the presence of the person making the will, after it has been signed. A witness or the married partner of a witness cannot benefit from a will. If a witness is a beneficiary (or the married partner or civil partner of a beneficiary), the will is still valid but the beneficiary will not be able to inherit under the will.
Although it will be legally valid even if it is not dated, it is advisable to ensure that the will also includes the date on which it is signed.
As soon as the Will is signed and witnessed, it is complete.
If someone makes a Will but it is not legally valid, on their death their estate will be shared out under certain rules, not according to the wishes expressed in the Will.
Where to keep your Will
Once a Will has been made, it should be kept in a safe place and other documents should not be attached to it. There are a number of places where you can keep a will:-
- at home
- with a solicitor, accountant or probate specialist
- at a bank
- at the Principal Registry of the Family Division of the High Court, a District Registry or Probate Sub-Registry for safe keeping. If you wish to deposit a will in this way you should visit the District Registry or Probate Sub-Registry or write to:-
The Probate Department
The Principal Registry of the Family Division
First Avenue House
42-49 High Holborn
London WC1V 6NP
Tel: 020 7947 6000
In Northern Ireland, wills can be deposited with:-
Royal Courts of Justice
Belfast BT1 3JF
Tel: 028 9072 4678
District Probate Office
The Court House
Londonderry BT48 6PY
Tel: 028 7126 1832