1. Make time
You need a Will if you own assets and want to have a say in what happens to them when you die. It is arguably one of the most important documents you will ever sign. It is worth taking the time to put one in place – especially if you have family that you care about. It will be important to them that your wishes are followed after your death. Take the time to make a Will so that your affairs can be dealt with efficiently and effectively.
2. What do you want to happen?
Consider the assets in your estate and decide what you want to leave, to whom, and when. Whilst instructions in a Will must be specific, a trust may give you more flexibility. This may suit you better if your circumstances are more complicated than normal. Once you have decided what you want to happen, speak to a professional about the best way to structure your Will to provide for your instructions.
Give some thought to the following questions
- What If your surviving spouse or partner remarries?
Marriage invalidates any existing Will and your beneficiaries could be unintentionally disinherited in favour of the new spouse and their family.
- What if the survivor of you, or one of your beneficiaries, requires means tested benefits or services?
Assets left directly to a beneficiary will be fully assessable for any means tested benefits or services. This could result in them missing out on valuable resources.
- What if a beneficiary gets divorced or becomes subject to creditor or other legal claims against them?
Assets left directly to a beneficiary will be part of their estate for the purposes of divorce and creditor proceedings. A large proportion of their inheritance could be unintentionally lost if their divorce, or financial issues, are not fully resolved before your death, or occurs any time after.
- What if Inheritance tax is paid repeatedly on the same family assets?
Any inheritance you leave directly to your beneficiaries will add onto their estates and may be subject to inheritance tax on their deaths. This can often mean that tax is paid repeatedly on the same assets as they pass from one generation to the next.
3. Don’t forget about Lasting Powers of Attorney
A will enables your affairs to be managed after your death. A Lasting Power of Attorney enables you to appoint people you trust to manage your affairs during your lifetime if you lose capacity. Together, both documents ensure that your affairs can be dealt with, on your behalf, no matter what life throws at you. If you can afford to, do them at the same time as your Will. That way, everything you need is in place – all done and dusted!
4. Understand the facts relating to your circumstances
Knowledge is Power! Find out exactly what will happen to you and your family if you die or lose capacity. Don’t rely on assumptions. For example, don’t assume that your spouse will inherit everything. Or that your partner will be provided for if you die. You are doing your family a huge disservice if you assume they’ll be able to manage things on your behalf without a Will or a Lasting Power of Attorney. They won’t! Getting the correct information ensures you understand your true position. You can then put things in place to reflect what you want to happen instead.
5. Use a professional
Not only can a professional draft your documents for you, they can also advise you on options available to you that you may not be aware of; such as how trusts and lasting powers of attorney may benefit you. Having this information to hand enables you to make an informed decision about what is right for you and your family. Information should be presented to you in a way you understand and give you the time and space to make your own decisions.
6. Review your Will regularly, especially as your circumstances change
Changes to your circumstances may mean that some or all of your existing Will is no longer as effective as it could be. Changes could include you or any of your beneficiaries getting divorced or married, having children, acquiring assets or retiring etc. As well as changes to your own circumstances, new tax rules and other laws are regularly introduced and you may wish to update your Will to incorporate any such changes.