What do I need to consider before making a Will?

December 20, 2015

You would be wrong if you thought, ‘oh writing a Will is something you do when you get old’!

If you own your home, have shares, inherited property, any other assets or have children there are lots of reasons to make a Will.

You’ll need two witnesses to make it legal, but as long as you’re over 18 and of a sound mind then you are able to make a Will. But, what do you need to include in your Will?

We’ve put together a list of things to consider before making a Will.

Assets you own

Before starting your Will you need to make a list of all the assets that you own. Obviously, this list can vary dramatically from person to person, but listing everything of value can make the process easier if the worst should happen to you.

Main items to include are houses, land, vehicles, investments, shares, antiques, and cash, but you may also have expensive jewellery or expert equipment such as a professional camera.

Guardians for your children

If you have children under the age of 18 then you might want to make a Will so you can appoint guardians for your children.

If you fail to appoint guardians but both parents die then the courts will decide who will look after your children. Although, the people chosen may not be the people you would want to look after your children.

You need to think carefully before appointing a guardian in a Will, it’s a lot of responsibility for another person to undertake. They’ll be taking care of your children every day, deciding their education, health and general upbringing.

Appointing an Executor

An executor is a person who is responsible for handling your affairs after your death.

You’ll need to name an executor in your Will – you can appoint up to four people. It’s important to think carefully about this as it’s a lot of work and includes dealing with the paperwork, paying any debts, gathering all the assets of your estate and distributing the remainder of your estate according to your Will.

Plus, if you’ve set up a Trust fund then the executor will hold these assets ‘in trust’ for a beneficiary. In this case, it might be worth appointing a solicitor as an executor (alongside members of your family) to look after the trust fund.

Creating a Trust

Trusts are often used to hold assets for children until they are old enough to receive them.
A trust can also be used to protect the family home from being sold in order to pay for residential care.

You will need a solicitor to set up a trust and explain how a trust can work for you and your personal circumstances.

There are different types of trust designed to meet different kinds of needs. The type of trust you use will depend on who the beneficiaries are, what the assets are, and how and when you want the assets to be distributed.

You will need to appoint a trustee to look after your trust, you can choose between one and four people.

Inheritance Tax

Inheritance Tax is paid if a person’s estate (their property, money and possessions) is worth more than £325,000 when they die. This is called the Inheritance Tax threshold.

The rate of Inheritance Tax is 40% on anything above the threshold. The rate may be reduced by 10% or more if the estate is left to charity.

By organising your finances and Will accordingly your solicitor may be able to explain how you can minimise the amount of Inheritance Tax that will be payable on your estate after your death.

Who benefits

Before writing your Will you’ll need to decide who you want to benefit from any assets you own. This task may be easier or harder depending on how big your family is and what you own.

If you have dependent children then usually you’ll be advised to leave enough to support them. You’ll also need to consider adopted and step children.

If you have older children will they all get an equal share? You might want to leave it all to a grandchild, or niece. It’s up to you what you do with your money and assets, so think carefully when making a Will.

It doesn’t have to be only family that benefits, if a friend has helped you throughout your life or you want to give something to charity, you’ll need to list that in your Will.

Changing a Will

If you’ve already written a Will but need to have it changed then you have to make an official alteration, called a codicil. This needs to be witnessed too.

There’s no limit on how many codicils you can add to a Will.

It’s recommended that you review your Will every five years or after any major life changes such as having a child, moving house, getting divorced or married.

If you have major changes to make then you should make a new Will and explain that it officially cancels all previous Wills.

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