According to research by Canada Life, three in five adults in the UK have not written a will; that equates to 59% of the population – 31 million people who have not written down who should inherit their estate, including property, cars, jewellery, artwork and cash, should they die.
Without a will in place, you may find that your estate is equally distributed to the nearest family members. Whilst this is not necessarily against your wishes, if you have remarried or are living with a different partner, you may find that your children from a previous relationship don’t receive any inheritance. You may also find that any adopted, fostered or step-children don’t benefit either. If you wanted to make a donation to a charity or a gift to a charitable organisation, that won’t happen if you don’t have a will specifying these details.
The moral of these statistics, and the lesson learned from the recent Covid-19 pandemic, is that making sure you have specified your wishes in a will is so important. However, it is not always an easy job to do, particularly if you have multiple assets and/or assets overseas. Getting help and advice from experienced, professional will writing services makes sure that you have covered all the necessary elements in your will.
What is a will?
In simple terms, a will is a legally-binding document that sets out your wishes in terms of who inherits your estate, i.e. what should happen to your possessions, upon your death. It can include the type of funeral you would like, who should raise your children if you die before they reach the age of 18 years, as well as any other instructions.
Whilst you can write your own will using one of the many self-service will packs available, if it isn’t correctly prepared, signed and witnessed, your will may be invalid. This means that your estate will be distributed according to strict intestacy rules and not to your wishes. Therefore, it is always worth investing in will writing services to ensure the validity of your will.
What does a will have to include?
Most wills start with the words “This is my last will and testament and revokes all other wills…” as well as other legal terminology which makes it clear that the document is your will; that you were of sound mind when you made the will and that your wishes detailed in the will should be carried out accordingly.
A will writing service will include this as well as other information that ensures the will is valid.
- Your personal information – your will must clearly state your full name (including any aliases), your permanent address of residence, your marital status (including if you are living with a long-term partner although not married) and any dependents, i.e. your children. You may have other dependents living with you so they need to be listed as well. It is also a good idea to include the names of your closest family.
- Your estate – this section is likely to take up the most part of your will. Your total assets and property should be listed, including any savings held in bank or building society accounts, any trusts, premium bonds, pension and life insurance policies, investments, like stocks and shares, cars or other motor vehicles, furniture or other household items, jewellery, artwork, antiques or any other personal belongings. Record the value of your estate as accurately as you can – you may need to get some items officially valued. It is also worth getting your assets re-evaluated at regular intervals. For example, the value of property, jewellery, cars, antiques and artwork usually increase in value over a period of time. Also list your debts, such as a mortgage, overdraft, loans or if you have entered an equity release package.
- State who benefits – make it very clear how you want your estate to be divided up and who your beneficiaries are, including who benefits from your will, any people that you wish to leave specific items, and if there is any residue of the estate remaining after funeral expenses, tax and other expenses have been paid, where do you want that go to.
- Charitable donations – if you wish to leave a donation to a charity, you will need to specify the amount you wish to leave, the charity along with the charity’s address and registered number.
- Your executors – a vital part of your will is naming the people who will be managing your estate upon your death. Known as executors of the will, it is their duty to apply for a grant of probate, which gives them the authorisation to execute your will according to your wishes, as well as pay expenses, funeral costs, request full and final utility accounts, sell your property (if needed), pay any inheritance tax (if necessary) and distribute your estate. The role of an executor is time-consuming, involves a lot of work and they have to take on a lot of responsibility. Before you name an executor, consider the sort of person who would be able to carry out these duties and always ask if they would be prepared to take on the role first. Some will say no, others will be happy to be an executor.
- Sign your will – the last step is to sign your will which you must do in front of two independent witnesses at the same time – you cannot sign your will one day and your witnesses sign on a different day. That said, due to the coronavirus pandemic, you are now allowed to sign through an open window/door of a house or vehicle, from an adjacent room or corridor with a door open, outdoors in a garden or open space and over a video call. Your witnesses are not allowed to be beneficiaries of your estate, nor spouses or civil partners as they could lose their right to inherit. In fact, beneficiaries and close family shouldn’t be present at all when you sign your will. It is also recommended that you don’t ask an executor to be a witness.
Once signed and witnessed, your will is a legally-binding document. If you have a previous will written at an earlier time in your life, make sure you destroy that will. Also make sure that your new will is stored in a safe place, and that your executors know where to find the will when you die as they will need the document to apply for a grant of probate.
At Norfolk Will Writing, we have been providing a will writing service for our clients and assisting executors of estates to manage the probate process for over 20 years. We offer a personalised service, keeping the process as simple and easy as possible. Our experienced consultants are on hand to guide you at every step. Contact us for your free consultation and to book an appointment with one of our consultants to discuss writing your will today or carrying out your executor duties.