Take care of your loved ones.

Thinking about leaving your loved ones behind can be uncomfortable and unfortunately this means that many people put off making a will until it is too late. Confusion over your last wishes can make your passing more difficult than it needs to be for your family and friends.

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Why make a will

  • 1

    When you pass away your family and friends are often the ones who will sort out your ‘estate’. Leaving a written will ensures that this process will run as smoothly as possible.

  • 2

    If you don’t write a will, you risk your estate being divided up in a way which you may not agree with. It also means that you won’t be able to leave specific gifts to your loved ones or charities.

  • 3

    Writing a will can actually help reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax owed to the Government. Leaving specific gifts to your spouse/civil partner or children will (in most cases) automatically exempt that asset from being liable to Inheritance Tax.

  • 4

    If you have children or other dependants, your will can be a tool to ensure that they are looked after properly once you’re no longer with them.

  • 5

    Writing a will also allow you to decide who should look after your children as their legal guardian if they are under the age of 18. Failure to do this can result in the courts appointing a guardian which risks somebody you may not agree with being in control of your children’s affairs.

  • 6

    If you have stepchildren and want them to be provided for it is extremely important for you to write a will. Unfortunately, the legal system will not account for stepchildren when dividing your estate should you die without creating a will.

  • 7

    Unmarried partners won’t receive anything from your estate unless it is specifically mentioned in a will even if you have been together for most of your life. Writing a will is the only way to ensure that they will be entitled to the proceeds of your estate.

  • 8

    Writing a will is the best way to guarantee that your unmarried partner/stepchildren do not lose their home if you pass away. You can leave them the property in its entirety or give them a right to reside in the property. If no will has been created to this affect, the property risks being passed to other parties who may seek to remove your unmarried partner/step children.

  • 9

    The unfortunate reality is that the death of a family member often leads to disputes. At a time of heightened emotions, it is all too common to see family’s squabble over the deceased assets. Writing a will and leaving specific personal items to those you care about it the best way to ensure your family knows what you wanted to happen to your estate. Writing a will can help avoid arguments and reduce the stress felt by your family and loved ones.

  • 10

    Within your will, you can name an executor, or multiple executors, who will be in charge of carrying out your final wishes. Choosing your executor in advance allows you to select the best person for the task. It also gives the executor prior warning so they can prepare themselves.

  • 11

    If you have any pets you may want to consider who will look after them once you’re gone. It isn’t just human family that you need to plan for! It is common to assign somebody to look after the animal as well as setting aside a sum of money to provide for the animal’s needs.

  • 12

    If there is a charity that is particularly close to your heart you may want to consider leaving a donation to them in your will. Many charities are reliant on this type of donation in order to continue carrying out their amazing work. As well as supporting a good cause, you could potentially reduce the amount of inheritance tax paid by your family if you leave more than 10% of your assets to a registered charity/charities.

Things to consider when making a will

Your will is one of the most important documents you will create during your lifetime. It will dictate your last wishes along with providing financially for your loved ones. There are several things you should consider before making your will.

Executors

An Executor is somebody that has been named in the will and who is responsible for administering the estate. This can involve instructing a Solicitor to carry out valuation and distribution of the estate in accordance with the wishes of the deceased as laid out in the will.
​When it comes to choosing an executor, you should carefully consider the following:

  • You should always find out if your desired executor is willing to act in that capacity when you pass away.
  • Your executor should be somebody who is close to you, that you can trust and that is willing to carry the responsibility of administering your estate.
  • It is a good idea to name more than one executor in your will. This allows the executors to divide the duties and can also help in situations where one executor may not be able to act in their capacity as executor.
  • If you do not have anybody to act as an executor, your Solicitor is likely to be happy to act as your executor.

 

Gifts/Legacies

When it comes to leaving gifts in your will, first you’ll want to draw up a list of who you would like to leave something to. This typically can include:

  • Family
  •  
  • Friends
  •  
  • Charities
  •  
  •  

When it comes to leaving gifts in your will, first you’ll want to draw up a list of who you would like to leave something to. This typically can include:

  • Cash Gifts e.g.I leave £5,000 to my Son…. This type of gift made in a will is known as a “Pecuniary Bequest”.
  • Specific Gifts e.g. I leave my jewellery to my Granddaughter…. This type of gift made in a will is known as a “Specific Bequest”.
  • "Residuary Bequests" e.g. I leave half of my estate to my Wife…this type of gift allows you to gift a specific portion of your estate to somebody. This can be particularly useful if you are not sure of the exact value of your estate.
  • "Reversionary Bequests" e.g. I leave my share of my house to my wife if she survives me, but if she does not survive me then it will pass to my daughter… – this type of gift can be great if you want to safeguard a spouses right to reside in a the family home for the rest of their life but also want to ensure that your children (or another party) receive the house when your spouse dies.

 

Valuing your Estate

Getting an exact valuation of your estate can be a tricky business and many executors will instruct Solicitors in order to help them do so. You can make this part of the process a little easier by having a rough idea of what your estate may be worth.

Follow our step by step guide to get a rough idea of how much your estate may be worth:

  • Value your marital home along with any other properties.
  • Determine how much you have in savings.
  • Find the value of any shares or investments in your name.
  • If you have any specific items that you think may be of significant worth e.g. paintings, jewellery or heirlooms you may want to get these appraised by a professional.
  • If you own/part-own a business, you may also want to get this valued by a professional.
  • Deduct any debts from the total of the above steps and you will have a rough idea of the value of your estate.

 

Dependants

Many people will have family members who are dependent on them to meet their financial needs. This can be financing the family home, providing food and shelter or even ensuring a disabled relative receives adequate care.

If you have dependents it is very important that you consider them carefully in your will.

If you have an unmarried partner, you will need to incorporate them into your will to make sure they are entitled to the proceeds of your estate.

If you have children under the age of 18, you may need to set up a trust to hold the proceeds of your estate for the benefit of your children until they come of age. You will also need to decide who you would like to appoint as a Trustee to oversee the Trust Fund.

If you have stepchildren these will need to be addressed specifically in your will as the legal system will not automatically qualify them as eligible to receive the proceeds of your estate.

If you are entrusted with the care of a disabled family member or friend, you may be worried about who will look after them when you’re gone. A solicitor can help you set up a trust designed specifically to ensure that your disabled dependent is well looked after once you’re no longer with us.

How to prepare for passing away

Facing the inevitable is never easy but we hope we can help put your mind at ease with some practicable tips that might make your passing easier on your loved ones.

Tell somebody the location of important documents and items

Many of us will keep our important financial documents e.g. insurance policies, bank details bundled together in a safe location. It is a good idea to inform somebody you trust of the location of these documents so that when you pass away they will know where to look.

If you are leaving specific gifts to somebody e.g. jewellery, it is a good idea to inform somebody of where to find that item upon your death.

Plan your Funeral and burial

Obviously this step is optional, but if you want something specific to happen at your funeral or memorial service after you die it's a good idea to get it in writing, and let your family know your wishes. Doing so gets rid of the headache of planning for your family, and ensures you get what you want. You don't need to go in and plan everything out, but here are a few things worth considering:

  • If you want a burial, you need to find a grave plot. You'll need to contact a local cemetery and purchase a plot if so. If you want a specific cemetery or plot, the earlier you do this step the better.
  • If you want cremation, you'll work with a funeral director, so contact a local funeral home and arrange any details with them.
  • Decide if you want to pre-pay for any arrangements so you don't have to worry about your family paying for anything while they wait to get access to your money. Since the average funeral is around $6,500, so it might be helpful to pay ahead of time.

Power of Attorney

If you’re worried that you might lose your mental capacity to make informed decisions, you may wish to grant Power of Attorney to somebody you trust. This will give them the ability to handle your financial/legal matters should you ever be deemed incapable of making an informed decision.

If you have been diagnosed with a neurologically degenerative disease, we suggest you contact a solicitor as a matter of pressing concern and have them draw up a Power of Attorney.

Write your will

Leaving your last wishes in a will is the best way to ensure your family knows exactly what your last wishes are. It will give you peace of mind knowing that your loved ones and even the charities you care about will be provided for in the event of your passing.

Please feel free to use CompareLegal.com’s Quote Generator to find a local Solicitor who can help you draft your will.

Validity of a Will

Your will doesn’t have to be on special paper or use a lot of legal language.

A document is a valid will as long as it:

  • Says how your estate should be shared out when you die.
  • Was made when you were able to make your own decisions and you weren’t put under pressure about who to leave things to.
  • Is signed and dated by you in the presence of two adult, independent witnesses, and then signed by the two witnesses in your presence – the witnesses can’t be people who are going to inherit anything from you (or their husband/wife or civil partner.

 

What happens if I don’t make a will

When someone dies without a will, their estate is divided up according to the rules known as Intestacy.

These rules don't take into account the closeness of your relationships, or who is most in need and more often than not will not be an accurate reflection of the last wishes of the deceased.

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