Where there's a Will - frequently asked questions when making a Will

Even if you're not leaving millions, making your wishes clear before you die means that loved ones, friends and the charities you support are cared for and protected. Here are a few things to think about before you write a Will.

Who can make my Will
Anyone can make up a Will, but it's worthless unless it’s signed correctly in front of two independent witnesses. It’s very important to note that those witnesses cannot be mentioned to specifically benefit from the Will or be the spouses of those mentioned.

Are there any advantages in using a solicitor?
The advantages of using a solicitor or legal executive are that they have been trained to recognise the pitfalls and are insured. In their experience of producing many Wills they would have come across many complex issues and will be able to find the correct Will to deal with the individuals personal family circumstances.

Homemade Wills are rarely effective if you have a complicated estate (and many are more complicated than you might think. Solicitors and legal executives have been trained in estate planning and will take all your assets and family circumstances into account, they will regularly review your Will (which is crucial) and keep you abreast of changes in the law.

The law regarding Will writing is not the same throughout the UK. There are important legal differences in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The costs involved with making a Will and using a professional depends upon how complicated your affairs and your wishes are, but are not as expensive as you think. Making a valid Will and incurring the costs in doing so always out way the costs that may have to be incurred by your estate should an incorrectly drafted Will have to be sorted out after your death. Homemade Wills and Wills made by unregulated incorrectly trained professionals can bring many difficulties to your family and loved ones at a very difficult and stressful time when dealing with bereavement.

Why should I choose executors?
The term ‘Executor’ is a legal name given to the person or persons you have appointed in your Will to carry out your wishes. They are responsible for dealing with your estate and this can involve handling large sums of money. If you have young children, it's best to appoint separate executors and guardians. Never appoint your spouse as your sole executor in case you die together, always appoint a substitution for any sole executor.

Should I create a trust?
This depends very much upon your individual circumstances and how you wish or need to leave your personal estate. Trusts are generally used to protect assets, for the protection of vulnerable beneficiaries, or as a tool in tax and life-time planning. Your executors can become your trustees or alternatively you may wish to appoint a different set of trustees. Trustees are responsible for managing and investing money or looking after property until it passes to your beneficiaries.

Should I make specific legacies?
A gift of a specific item of property that you own (property, heirlooms, jewellery or items of sentimental value) are referred to as a specific bequest and can be left to any named person or charity.

A gift of money, either a fixed amount or not, is referred to as a pecuniary legacy and again this can be gifted to a charity, person or even class of person (I leave £100.00 to each of my grandchildren). Where you wish to leave to a charity the Solicitor will check its name, address and registered number with the Charities Commission to ensure your money will go to the right place.

Gifts that you leave to charity may reduce your inheritance tax burden. You could even avoid inheritance tax completely by pledging to give everything over and above the inheritance tax threshold to charity.

You can also index-link pecuniary or cash gifts ensuring that they keep their value over time.

Is it important to leave a residuary legacy?
Making sure that your Will effectively deals with the distribution of your residuary estate is vital. Your residuary estate or residue is everything that's left over in your estate after your funeral and debts have been paid and all of your specific legacies and bequests have been made. Unless you specify who this goes to, it is subject to the laws of intestacy and your residuary estate Will have to be distributed according to statute and not according to your wishes and intentions. A residuary legacy is the best and only way to ensure that a gift to loved ones or your favourite charity is made.

For more information and to discuss your own specific needs contact Elizabeth McEvilly on 01952 810307 or by email at elizabethm@terry-jones.co.uk

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