Did you update your will in 2020? Or have you not quite got around to it yet in 2021? The first lockdown prompted many people to get their affairs in order by updating their Will. Since then, the severity of the outbreak has led to many people reviewing an out-of-date Will or creating one for the first time
Back in spring 2020, The Law Society reported that there had been a 30% increase on the usual rates of requests to make a Will. The latest figures now put that increase at 76% compared to the same period last year. If you want to create a Will (for the first time, now is the time to do it.
What should be in any Will
Before you write a new Will, it's a good idea to think about:
- How much money and what property and possessions you have
- Who you want to benefit from your will
- Who should look after any children under 18 years of age
- Who is going to sort out your estate and carry out your wishes after your death (your executor)
What should a Will cover?
If you already have a Will, what does it actually cover? Does it reflect your current circumstances and all the various that make up your estate? It should include instructions for:
- Your property or properties in the UK or overseas
- Personal possessions such as jewellery and cars
- Family heirlooms you wish to pass on to specific people
- Your business
All of these assets make up your estate. Making a Will ensures that when you die your estate is shared according to your wishes.
No such thing as a common law spouse
It is particularly important to make a Will if you are not married or are not in a registered civil partnership (a legal arrangement that gives same-sex partners the same status as a married couple). This is because the law does not automatically recognise cohabitants (partners who live together) as having the same rights as husbands, wives and registered civil partners. There is no such thing as a common law husband or wife in law. As a result, even if you've lived together for many years, your cohabitant may be left with nothing if you have not made a Will.
Provision for children in your Will
Everyone should have a Will, but it is even more important if you have children. A Will is also vital if you have children or dependants who may not be able to care for themselves. Without a Will there could be uncertainty about who will look after or provide for them if you die. Your Will should specifically include all your children, including those from a first marriage, or children of a blended marriage.
If you remarry, you must make a new Will as the old will becomes automatically invalid. This is very important, as if you die with no valid will in England or Wales, the law will decide who gets what. If you have no living family members, all your property and possessions will go to the Crown.
Wills after divorce
You may wish to include your ex-spouse and any of their relatives as beneficiaries, which wouldn’t normally be covered by the division of an estate if you died intestate (i.e. with an invalid Will). Equally, you should make a new Will when you get divorced, especially if you don’t want your ex-spouse to benefit and/or you have a new partner in your life. If you want certain people to benefit only, you should name them specifically, including children, in your new Will.
Make a Will for peace of mind
No one likes to think about it but death is the one certainty that we all face. Planning ahead can give you the peace of mind that your loved ones can cope financially without you and, at a difficult time, helps remove the stress that monetary worries can bring. Planning your finances in advance should help you to ensure that, when you die, everything you own goes where you want it to. Making a Will is the first step in ensuring that your estate is shared out exactly as you want it to be.
Wills and Inheritance Tax
When you make a Will, you can also make sure you don’t pay more Inheritance Tax than you legally need to. It’s an essential part of your financial planning. If you leave everything to your spouse or registered civil partner there'll be no Inheritance Tax to pay, because they are classed as an exempt beneficiary. Or you may decide to use your tax-free allowance to give some of your estate to someone else or to a family trust. (Just to say, Scottish law on inheritance differs from English law.)
To make sure you make the most of tax benefits in making a Will, consult your financial advisor, or call us on 023 9319 0377
10 top reasons to make a Will
In summary, here are our top ten reasons why you need to make a Will:
- You decide how your assets are shared – if you don't have a will, the law says who gets what
- If you're an unmarried couple, you can make sure your partner is provided for
- If you're divorced, you can decide whether to leave anything to your former partner
- You can make sure you don't pay more Inheritance Tax than necessary
- Several people could make a claim on your estate when you die because they depend on you financially
- You may want to include a trust in your will, to provide for young children or a disabled person, save tax, or simply protect your assets
- Your permanent home is not in the UK or you are not a British citizen
- You live here but you have overseas property
- You own all or part of a business
- You want peace of mind knowing your family, friends and favourite charities will benefit
Needles to say, once you've made your Will, it is important to keep it in a safe place and tell your executor, close friend or relative where it is. You can also lodge your Will with a solicitor, or an alternative professional storage firm for safekeeping.
Executors for your Will
Executors are the people you name in your Will to carry out your wishes after you die. They will be responsible for all aspects of winding up your affairs after you’ve passed away such as arranging your funeral, notifying people and organisations that you’ve died, collating information about your assets and liabilities, dealing with any tax bills, paying debts and then distributing your estate to your chosen beneficiaries. Being an executor can be quite a major undertaking, especially for family members who would be grieving your loss at the time. So you might like to appoint a professional to be a joint Executor and take on much of the paperwork. Call us to discuss appointing a professional executor to help ease the burden of your passing.
Legacies and gifts
You can make all types of different gifts in your Will, known as legacies. For example, you may want to give an item of sentimental value to a particular person, or perhaps a fixed cash amount to a friend or favourite charity. You can then decide who you would like to receive the rest of your estate and in what proportions.
Review your will every five years
It is advisable to review your Will every five years and after any major change in your life, such as getting separated, married or divorced, having a child or moving house. Any change must be by Codicil (https://www.pantheraestateplanning.co.uk/blog/why-update-your-will ), (an addition, amendment or supplement to a will) or by making a new will.
Need to make or review a Will?
Contact us for a review of your current will, and a consultation on a new one. We have successfully created wills all through the various lockdowns including provision for witnessing and signing of Wills either in person outside your home (socially distanced of course) or in our office. .