The importance of a will
A will is arguably one of the most important documents you will prepare in your lifetime.
Although it is an easy task to put off, the preparation of a will can provide you with the peace of mind knowing that your assets will pass to your loved ones in accordance with your wishes. A common misconception is that, in the absence of a will, your assets will automatically pass to those closest to you in their entirety.
Without a valid will, your assets will be divided up and distributed in accordance with the statutory “rules of intestacy”. For many people, these rules will not distribute assets in accordance with their wishes. For example, unmarried cohabitants and partners are not included as beneficiaries, nor are step-children. Furthermore, the rules of intestacy do not consider personal relationships between family members and, as such, your estate may be distributed to those who you would not wish to benefit.
By preparing a will, you can appoint one or more individuals to act as an executor/executors after you have passed away. The appointment of such individuals in your will provides you with total control as to who you would like to manage your assets and liabilities, and ultimately distribute your estate, after your death.
There are a number of other important considerations that we can discuss with you during an initial appointment. For example, you may have specific funeral wishes that can be included in your will. Whilst these instructions are not legally binding, they often lessen the burden on those around you to have to make a decision themselves at a difficult time.
Moreover, if you have children who are under the age of 18, you will probably have a preference about how they should be cared for and which assets should be made available to provide for their welfare. A will enables you to address both of these points by appointing guardians for your children and allocating assets for their benefit.
You may have some personal items, such as jewellery or household goods, that you would like to pass to specific family members, friends or charities after you have died. By including these wishes in your will, you can ensure that your personal items pass to those people in a straightforward manner. In addition, you may wish to outline specific cash sums to be paid to your loved ones or charities following your death.
Similarly, you may have a particular wish in relation to a property that you own. You could include an outright gift of a property in your will, or allow a partner to continue to live in a property once you have passed away.
More and more of us are holding digital assets such as email accounts, loyalty points and music downloads. We can help you to prepare a personal assets log to detail your digital assets to ensure that your executors are able to access your online accounts.
Our specialist team can also discuss inheritance tax allowances and consider whether tax planning may be appropriate for you. Inheritance tax is essentially charged by the government on the estate of any deceased individual where the value of their assets exceed a tax free threshold of £325,000, known as the “nil rate band”. The value of your assets above the nil rate band will be taxed at 40%. However, there are certain inheritance tax reliefs which your estate may be able to benefit from, such as business property relief and agricultural relief. We will consider available reliefs and allowances with you, and your will will be drafted to take advantage of them.
Even if you have a valid will in place, we recommend that you review this every five years or following a significant life event. For example, it is important to remember that marriage will revoke a will unless some very specific wording has been included. As such, if you are newly married or planning a wedding, the preparation of new wills is an essential consideration. Likewise, if you are recently separated or divorced, we would be happy to discuss updating your will to reflect your current wishes.
By creating or updating your will you can provide your family with the peace of mind that your wishes will be clear once you have passed away. A well drafted will also has the benefit of reducing the stress of sorting out your affairs after your death and reducing the likelihood of disputes.
If you would like to discuss the preparation of a new will or if you are considering updating your will, our award winning team of specialist solicitors are here to guide you through this process.
Please get in touch with us today for more information.