Leaving a Legacy - Free Wills Month
Did you know that March is 'Free Wills Month'? Anyone aged 55 or over can update or amend their Will free of charge by using participating solicitors in England, Scotland and Wales.
Old Free Gary Youssef (Director at GSQ Wealth) and Sangeeta Rabadia (Senior Consultant Solicitor at Allard Bailey Law Firm) share the most important things you should consider when writing or amending your will.
What is a Will?
A Will is an important document that most people know they should have, but don’t tend to see it as a priority.
It is a legally binding document stating who benefits from your wealth when you die. It also nominates someone whom you trust to do the execution of your wishes (the ‘Executor’). A Will also allows parents to appoint guardians who will look after their minor children in the event of death.
How do I ensure my Will is valid?
By law in order for a Will to be valid you need to make sure:
- It is in writing
- It is signed by you (or by someone at your direction)
- There are two independent witnesses who watch you sign your Will
- The two witnesses also sign your Will after you have signed it
Sangeeta Rabadia at Allard Bailey law firm also suggests you include the following in your Will to reduce the risk of a dispute:
- Date your Will – if you have executed more than one Will on the same date, then include a time stamp on each Will so that an order of execution can be established
- Clearly state if you want your Will to apply to your worldwide assets or just those in the UK
- Choose Executors whom you can trust and know will ensure your wishes are followed. They could be family or friends, or alternatively, a professional such as a solicitor or an estate administration firm
- If possible, discuss your wishes with your Executors, especially your funeral wishes
- If your Will is more complex, write a letter of wishes or a statement of reasons to explain its contents and keep it with the Will
- Consider your inheritance tax position to ensure that the contents of your Will do not give rise to a tax bill that could otherwise be reduced
- Speak to a professional to ensure the implications of your Will mirror your intentions
Is it better to get a solicitor to draft my Will or do it myself or with an online service?
It is advisable to use a solicitor to draft, or in the very least check over your Will, to ensure that it has the effect you want, as mistakes can mean that your wishes are not followed. Wills executed without proper advice are more likely to lead to disputes, which can be both emotionally and financially draining for your loved ones. Some inheritance tax planning by a solicitor working alongside a wealth manager, could also help you reduce your beneficiaries’ inheritance tax bill.
Can I change my Will?
You can change your Will as many times as you like during your lifetime. It is recommended that you review your Will every five years or so, especially when you experience a significant life event, such as birth, marriage, divorce, business set-up or receipt of a significant inheritance.
If I own a business how does that affect my will?
This is something that should be included in your Will as you need to think about who would inherit the business, or if it would need to be sold in the event of death.
What happens if someone dies and they don’t have a will?
The law of intestacy applies, which means assets will be divided as stated in the law. Even if you’re married, your spouse may not automatically receive 100% of everything you own. People you wouldn’t want to benefit from your estate could inherit or be given control of your assets under intestacy laws. Even worse, the Courts would decide who would be appointed to raise your children.
In conclusion, this article sets out a brief summary of why Wills are important and the downsides if they are incorrectly drafted or not drafted at all. What is most important is that you do seek professional advice, whether it is to draft the Will on your behalf, or to check over a Will that you have already drafted, to ensure it is valid.
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Wills are not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.