What is a Last Will and Testament?
A Last Will and Testament is a legal document recognized under UK law that allows you to specify how your assets should be distributed after your death, appoint executors to administer your estate, and address other important matters such as guardianship of minor children. It is governed by the Wills Act 1837 and subsequent amendments.
A Will defines what happens to your finances, possessions and dependents when you pass away.
It is important that you have an up-to-date Will that takes your individual circumstances into account. If you pass away without a Will, everything is given away according to fixed intestacy laws, which means your affairs are dealt with, according to a set of complicated legal rules and not what your wishes may have been. Your children could end up getting nothing and could end up in the care of social services if a parent has not made a Will-appointed guardian. At JMR Solicitors, we keep up to date with changes in the law and know how to draft a Will to suit your personal circumstances.
Why do I need a Will?
Having a will is crucial for ensuring that your wishes are carried out after your death. Without a will, your estate may be distributed according to intestacy laws, which may not align with your intentions. By having a valid will in place, you have control over how your assets are distributed and can provide for your loved ones in the way you desire
A will makes it easier for your loved ones to understand your wishes when you die. Having a will eases the process and reduces the stress of arranging your affairs after your death. Without a will in place, everything that you own will be divided and shared in a way that may not comply with your wishes, but in the standard way defined by the law. Having a will may reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax that would have to be paid on the money and property that you leave. It may be even more important to write a will if you have family members, especially children, who are financially dependent on you. Equally important would be if you intend to leave something to a person who is not in your immediate family and who may not be recognised otherwise. Your will can also be a way to let your loved ones know how you wish to buried or cremated.
What happens if I don’t leave a Will?
Dying without a valid will is called intestacy. Intestacy creates several problems, including:
If you are married and do not have a valid will, your children may be left with little or nothing, as your husband or wife may inherit all or most of your money, possessions or property after you die.
If you are separated, but not divorced, the above may still be true.
If you are not married, your partner will most likely be left with nothing after you die no matter how long you have been together.
If you die without a will and have no close, living relatives your entire estate will automatically be given to the government or to the Crown.
If you die before you write a will, your possessions, money and property will be divided and distributed in a way that may not comply with your wishes, but in the standard way defined by the law. If this happens then you may end up leaving something to someone that you do not want to, or conversely that you leave nothing to someone that you want to give something to. This is because when there is no will, the law will decide who gets given what with no consideration of your wishes because there is no legal record of your wishes. The relationship that you have with the people that receive your money or possessions will not be considered, as there will be no legal way to determine the truth. By creating a will, you will be clearing up any confusion that may arise by stating who you want to receive your possessions, money or property. This will prevent any unnecessary stress or upset at a time that will be already difficult for you loved ones.
What is a mirror will?
Mirror wills are documents that are very similar and are used by married or unmarried couples. They are virtually identical and drafted so that one partner’s will gives their entire estate to the other after they die, and the other partner does the same in the event of their death. This means that if one partner dies, the entire estate goes to the surviving partner. This can be particularly beneficial if you are in a relationship but are not married, as unmarried partners may not be legally entitled to inherit your estate. Mirror wills can also act as protection for your loved ones should both partners die at the same time. This can include leaving instructions for children that you both agree on, for example appointing guardians for them or trustees to hold your estate until your children come of age. Mirror wills usually make the partners in a relationship each other’s executors, however additional executors can be appointed so that in the event that both partners die at the same time, their wishes can still be carried out. Mirror wills can also help to avoid inheritance tax, as everything passed from one partner to another is tax-free.
Inheritance Tax on my Will – What will I have to pay?
Estates valued over £325,000 are subject to Inheritance Tax. Inheritance Tax is relevant for property, possessions and any other financial assets. Inheritance Tax is set at 40%, with funds coming from your estate rather than the pocket of your recipients.
Professional solicitors specialising in will writing can help you to ensure that as little of your estate as possible is lost to Inheritance Tax – which is another crucial benefit of enlisting professional assistance with your will. You should also factor in the cost of your funeral and other essential expenses upon your death.
What is the Executors job?
An executor is the person you appoint to carry out your wishes after you die. This person can be anyone that you choose and can be more than one person but it is important to carefully consider who you would like your executor to be. The job of an executor can be complicated and sometimes difficult. It can involve a lot of work, especially if your instructions involve the sale of a property. Your executor is also responsible for making sure that the correct amount of tax gets paid. Anyone over the age of 18 can be appointed as an executor of a Will, and they can even be one of the people named in your will such as close family or friends.
You can have up to four executors on your will at any time. It is advised though, that you keep in mind the practicalities of four different people working together to execute your will. Although four executors may be confusing, it is advised that you have more than one executor in the event that one of them dies.
It is common practice for people to have one relative and one professional, such as a solicitor, act as their executors. Having a solicitor act as an executor can also be beneficial due to their specialist knowledge. It makes a lot of sense to have a solicitor handle the tax and legal issues after your death and have your other executor handle the more sensitive family matters that may arise. It is also important to note that you must ask permission before including someone as your executor, as if they say no or change their mind, you will have to change your will.
When should I create a will?
A: It is advisable to create a will as soon as possible, regardless of your age or the size of your estate. Life circumstances can change unexpectedly, and having a will in place ensures that your wishes are documented and legally binding. Regularly reviewing and updating your will is also recommended to reflect any changes in your circumstances or wishes.
Can I create a will without a solicitor?
A: While it is possible to create a will without a solicitor, seeking legal advice is highly recommended to ensure that your will is legally valid and properly drafted. A solicitor specialising in wills and probate can provide valuable guidance, ensure compliance with the Wills Act 1837 and other relevant legislation, and help you avoid potential pitfalls or disputes.
Can I include specific instructions in my will?
A: Yes, you can include specific instructions in your will. For example, you can appoint guardians for minor children, make charitable bequests, specify funeral arrangements, or leave instructions regarding the distribution of specific assets. Consulting a solicitor can help ensure that your specific wishes are accurately documented and legally enforceable.
What happens if I die without a will (intestate)?
A: If you die without a valid will, the distribution of your estate will be governed by the rules of intestacy set out in the Administration of Estates Act 1925 and subsequent amendments. This means that your assets may not be distributed according to your wishes. Creating a will allows you to have control over the distribution of your assets and provides clarity for your loved ones during a challenging time.
Can I make changes to my will after it is created?
A: Yes, you can make changes to your will by creating a codicil or by revoking the existing will and creating a new one. It is important to seek legal advice when making changes to ensure that the amendments are valid and comply with the requirements set forth in the Wills Act 1837.
How can a solicitor help ensure my will is legally valid?
A: A solicitor specialising in wills and probate can guide you through the process of creating a legally valid will. They will ensure that the document meets all legal requirements, including proper execution, language clarity, and compliance with the Wills Act 1837 and other relevant legislation. Their expertise can help avoid potential complications and ensure that your wishes are properly documented and legally enforceable.
We hope these FAQs, based on UK legislation, have provided helpful information about Last Wills and Testament. If you have further questions or require personalised assistance, please feel free to contact our experienced team at JMR Solicitors. Call us at 0161 491 3933 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like JMR Solicitors to be an executor of your Will, provide Will writing legal advice or answer any other Will related questions, call us on 0161 491 3933 or fill out the contact form below.