How important is your last will and testament?
Writing a will isn’t always easy, but it needs to be done if you want to make sure your wishes are carried out after you’ve passed on. Your last will and testament is one of the most important things you can do for your loved ones. Putting your wishes on paper helps avoid unnecessary hassles, and you’ll gain peace of mind knowing that a lifetime of assets will end up in the right hands.
At Optimal Solicitors, you’ll find all the crucial information you need to write a will, as well as the important reasons why having one is so valuable.
What is a will?
A will is a legal document setting out your wishes for the distribution of your property, money, and possessions after your death. Together, these are known as your ‘estate’.
A will should include who will look after your estate when you die. They will be known as your ‘executors’. You should think carefully about who you’d like your executors to be, as they will be responsible for administering your estate and ensuring your wishes are granted.
If you have children, you will likely be concerned about who will care for them if you pass on before they grow up. Rest assured; a will can also include guardianship provisions if you die before your child/children reach the age of 18.
Dying without a legally binding will is known as dying ‘intestate’. If you die without a legally binding will, your wishes may not be carried out. Your assets will be distributed according to law, and the courts will decide who looks after your children. This may go against your true wishes and your loved ones will likely spend extra time, money and stress going through the right processes to access your assets.
Why you need a will?
For most people, the main reason for having a will is to ensure loved ones are protected and will benefit from your estate. However, if you don’t have a will, those you love will not automatically inherit from your estate.
There are rules which establish who would inherit your estate if you died intestate. This would leave the following categories of people vulnerable:
• If you and your partner are not married or in a civil partnership, your partner would not automatically be entitled to your assets. This is the case even if you have lived together for a long time and have children together.
• If you own a property and wish for a loved one to be able to reside or inherit the property after your death, this may not be possible if you have not formally expressed your wishes in a will.
• If you have grandchildren to whom you want to leave a direct gift, they will not benefit from your estate unless you explicitly set this out in your will.
• If you have a stepchild, they are not entitled to your estate under the rules of intestacy. Only your biological children and adopted children have a right to your estate automatically.
• If you have married or remarried, your spouse or civil partner will become the main beneficiary of your estate. This could mean any children from a previous relationship, or even present, could inherit nothing or substantially less than your spouse or civil partner.
What can your will include?
A will can account for various wishes and it is not just limited to your estate. For example:
· In England, your pets will be considered part of your estate. If you are concerned about who will take care of your pet after you die, you can mention this in your will.
· A will can specify your funeral wishes. While your loved ones do not have to carry out these wishes, this can provide added peace of mind.
· It can include different types of gifts: Pecuniary gifts (gifts of money to a child or a charity), specific gifts (gifts of a specific item such as jewellery) and residuary gifts (the estate remaining after your pecuniary and specific gifts have been made).
· A will can appoint guardians to protect any dependants or children.
· A will can include a letter of your wishes, which can be an expression of things you wish to say to loved ones after you have died. This letter is usually a separate document to your will, and can be kept alongside it.
Do you need to ammend your will?
Marrying, or re-marrying as the case may be, will likely invalidate your will, unless a specific provision was made in your will for your intended marriage. Should you get married, or re-married, you should seek legal advice beforehand.
Is your DIY will valid?
A will needs to comply with certain legal formalities to be valid. Therefore, you need to be certain you are familiar with the requirements of a valid will. Some common mistakes with homemade wills are ambiguity, incorrect terminology, failure to account for future events and failure to sign and witness the will correctly.
If your will does not meet the legal requirements, you face the risk of its validity being disputed after your death. This can often lead to legal disputes within families, which are lengthy, stressful, and expensive.
Do I need to instruct a solicitor?
It is not necessary to instruct a solicitor to draft your will, but they will be able to advise you on how best to write your will to ensure your estate is distributed according to your wishes.
A will does not have to be prepared nor witnessed by a solicitor to be legally valid. However, it is beneficial to use a solicitor when making a will as it will be done professionally and accurately, making sure everything is sorted for your loved ones.
Here at Optimal Solicitors, we will be able to advise you on how best to write your will. Our trained solicitors have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to writing wills and are ready to provide friendly, professional advice to get you through the difficult parts.
Get in touch with us!
When you make a will with Optimal Solicitors, your questions will be answered by an experienced will writer.