Writing a will is not a one-off task. A will is a living document, and needs to be updated and amended as circumstances change. By the time you are enjoying your retirement, your will may not reflect either your personal position or that of your family. Even if you have changed it before, it may now have become a bit of a jumble of changes, additions and codices.
Time for a change
If you can’t remember the last time you read your will, let alone changed it, now is the time! However, rather than sit down and start adding or deleting elements straight away, take a little time to consider three key question areas:
This is probably the easiest area to consider; who do you want to benefit from your estate?
Let’s start with your immediate family. Since you last wrote your will, your immediate and extended family may have changed considerably. So, you need to consider how to best provide for:
- your current spouse
- first family children if you have remarried
- first family grandchildren
- extended family such as in-laws
Now think about others that you may wish to leave gifts or legacies to, such as:
- close friends
- your pets (for their continued care)
- favourite charities and not-for-profit organisations
- local community groups or causes
- schools, college and university bursaries
- medical research and hospices
Finally, consider who you might NOT want to receive anything, such as your first spouse or their partner, or your children’s irresponsible new partners!
The one person you definitely don’t want to benefit any more than required is the taxman. So, take professional advice on how to minimise the tax liability of your estate through simple steps taken during your lifetime such as:
- making use of annual IHT exemptions
- gifts in consideration of marriage
- charitable donations
- small gifts to family
- gifts between you and your spouse
Think about what you have to pass on, and who would take best care of it, such as:
- your home
- your business
- stocks and shares
- other investments
- other land and property
- family heirlooms such as antiques
- pets and livestock (classed as possessions in law - sad but true!)
Consider who would enjoy receiving precious family heirlooms, for example. Think too who might actually benefit more from an immediate gift of cash or a longer term gift of shares.
The big question for many is who will inherit their business, or at least a share of it? Whilst it may seem only right to give each of your children an equal share, multiple ownership might not be right for the business. Equally, your children may already have their own businesses or jobs they love, and not want to take on running what had been your passion, but might not be theirs.
It’s an important consideration, and professional advice can help you make a focused and impartial decision that’s best for all concerned. You should also consider setting up a Business LPA to ensure your business continues if you become incapacitated - more on this here.
Just as you wouldn’t leave a priceless Ming vase to a toddler to play with, you might want to restrict access to legacies until the recipients reach a certain age. By placing assets in Trusts, you can protect them and ensure that your appointed Trustees take good care of the contents until your beneficiary can access it.
On the other hand, would it make more sense to give part of that legacy as a gift now, rather than wait? A child or grandchild might want to set up their own business, go to college, or start a family of their own. A gift made in your lifetime could help them realise that dream sooner rather than later. So, consider:
- gifts now for immediate benefit
- investments in your will rather than cash for middle term benefit
- trusts for longer term benefits
Look into the future
Not the easiest thing to do at present, we know, but if the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that life can be unpredictable. Think how events over the past six months have affected:
- your income / pension
- your house price
- your investments
- your business
- your family’s jobs
- the size of your family
Now think back to this time last year. How much of that would you have predicted? Who knew a pandemic would actually increase house prices, for example!
Bearing that all in mind, make sure that the terms of your legacies are not too rigid. For example, a Trust for university fees might be set to provide funds for a child or grandchild when aged 18 to be used for any form of education or training - but what happens if they don’t go? Similarly a Trust may allow funds to be available when a grandchild is 25, rather than when they get married, as they may not choose to do so. For more details, call us for an initial appointment to discuss further.
Want to review your will?
Call us to book a will review. We’ll talk through what you want to achieve with your legacies, the people you want to give to, and what you have to give. We can then help you draft a new will that covers your wishes, and add a Will Clarity statement if required to lay down your wishes in detail.
Panthera Estate Planning
Protecting your hard-earned legacy