What is a Will?
A Will is a legal document which you create to give directions for the distribution of your Estate (assets, property, money, jewellery) you own on death to Beneficiaries. Legal Wills indicates who will manage your estate (the Executor(s) of your Will) and, if need be, appoints Guardians to look after minor children when both parents have died. A Will is therefore a very important document and everyone over the age of 18 years should make one. It provides certainty and comfort to those who survive. Make a Will online >
Q: Can an executor be a beneficiary in a Will?
A: Yes. Often the main beneficiary is one of the executors.
Q: Who are Executors?
A: Executors are the name given to the persons appointed in a Will to manage the estate for the Person who makes the Will. Executors do not have to agree to be named beforehand and can decline to act if they want to. Generally, however, Executors are chosen because they have a close relationship / friendship with the person making the Will and are usually willing to help and act as Executors.
Q: Do I need a solicitor to act as executor?
A: No, but it is wise to appoint a professional (a Solicitor, Trust Company, or Bank) alongside a friend or relative. This enables the burden of the work to be shared with a professional who can advise. It also ensures that, if the executor is unable to carry out their duties for any reason, there is the support that is needed.
Q: How much are Solicitors fees?
A: Any Professional will charge for their advice and work and their fees will come out of your Estate. Fees vary but the rule is that usually Banks are the most expensive, and Solicitors next.
Trust Companies also offer specialist probate services, but can be even more economical.
Children and Wills
Q: Can children under 18 inherit?
A: Children cannot inherit until they reach the age of 18; below this age, the funds are held in Trust. If you think 18 is too young for your children to inherit a large sum of money, within a Will, you can specify that they do not receive the capital sum until a later age. They will, however, be entitled to receive any income from the trust fund as soon as they reach 18. Apart from this, the Trustees decide what income and/or capital can be used for the benefit of the children e.g. school fees.
Divorce and Wills
Q: I’m divorced — what will happen with my existing will?
A: Getting divorced does not cancel a Will, but a gift to a divorced spouse lapses, unless a contrary intention appears in the Will.
Q: Can I make my own will?
A: Yes, you can. But there are significant risks in doing so — which you will not be around to sort out. It could mean substantial legal fees to put things right — quite apart from the upset and confusion it could cause those you leave behind. You should consider:
A Will that is not clear under the law is open to challenge and your wishes may be overruled.
A Will not made under the correct procedures can be rendered invalid.
When making your own Will you may overlook some possibilities and unforeseen changes in circumstances.
Q: Do I need to nominate guardians in my will?
A: You do not have to, but a Will can be a convenient place to name a guardian. Without nominated Guardians the courts will decide who will look after your children.
Q: A relative has died and we can’t find the will?
A: If someone has died and not left a will, this is known as intestacy. If you are the next of kin and you need professional help to administer an estate.
Q: What happens if I die with no will?
A: Many people erroneously think that their Estate will go to their partner when they die. This isn’t necessarily the case. For Example, an unmarried partner will be entitled to nothing.
Even a spouse may not receive the entire Estate and worryingly, may not receive enough to maintain their current lifestyle.
Q: Will I incur Inheritance Tax (IHT)?
A: If your estate is worth more than £312,000 (twice this for couples) it will be subject to the rules governing IHT.
If your estate is worth more than £325,000 (twice this for couples) it will be subject to the rules governing IHT.
The first £325,000 of a single person’s estate estate will pass free of IHT. This is known as the Nil Rate Band personal tax allowance. The remainder will be taxed at 40% (e.g. if you have an estate worth £425,000, you will pay tax on £100,000 (£40,000 tax).
Property (your estate) left outright to a surviving spouse and to a registered charity are IHT free.
There are other tax allowances for gifts of agricultural or business interests, but they are beyond the scope of these notes. If you have such interests and would like to find out if you can take advantage of these allowances, you should consult a solicitor or accountant.
Q: Do married couples need two Wills?
A: Both of you need to make a Will. A pair of similar Wills are called ‘mirror Wills’. Getting married or remarried cancels a previous Will unless the Will expressly states otherwise.
Updating a will
It is important to ensure your Will is up-