Getting ready for your Will drafting meeting
Making a Will is the only way to ensure that your wishes are carried out after your death. If you have not made, or do not have a valid Will, your property will pass according to the Law of Intestacy. This may not be what you would have wished. In any event it is likely to take longer to finalise than if you had made a Will.
The primary purpose of your Will, of course, is to direct how your estate should be distributed after your death. In addition to this, as a minimum, your Will should also appoint Executors to administer your estate. Your Will can also appoint Guardians to look after your children, make arrangements to give your pets a new home, and communicate preferences for your funeral. A well-structured Will can provide flexibility to adapt to changing family circumstances, give security in the family home to any surviving spouse or partner and can help to reduce tax liabilities.
At Relay we can help to translate your wishes into a Will that works for you, but ahead of our meeting please take some time to consider the points below to bring your thoughts together and gather some financial information that we will need at our meeting.
You may express preferences in your Will for your funeral arrangements. You may indicate whether you wish to be buried or cremated, whether you would like a religious or civil ceremony or not ceremony at all, who you would like to conduct the ceremony and where. If you have pre-arranged your funeral by purchasing a funeral plan you may use the Will to notify your loved ones of its existence.
We will ask you to provide information to understand the extent of your estate and determine if it likely to be liable to Inheritance Tax (IHT). We will need to understand what you own and how you own it (e.g. solely or jointly) and what you owe (mortgages and other debts). We will also look at amounts that could be added to your estate when you die such as pension plans, death in service benefits and life assurance policies. Please take some time to note the value of the following assets and liabilities and if you can, gather relevant statements and policy documents:
- House(s) and mortgage(s) – your home and any investment properties
- Property owned outside of the UK
- Bank and Savings Accounts and Cash ISAs
- Shares and Investment Funds and Investment ISAs
- Life Assurance Bonds
- Pension Plans
- Life Assurance Policies
- Death in Service Benefits
- Business interests – shares, partnerships, sole trading assets
- Farming interests
- House contents and valuable personal items
- Loans and credit card debt
People named in your Will
In the following sections we will ask you to think about naming Executors, Trustees, Guardians and Beneficiaries in your Will. In all cases the more information we record on these people the better so please try to gather the full name, current address, date of birth and contact numbers/emails for all people to be named in the Will.
Executors and Trustees
Your Will may appoint one or more Executors to administer your estate when you die. An Executor could be a family member, a friend or a professional such as a solicitor or company – anyone you trust to carry out the duties diligently. An Executor may also benefit from the Will. It is best practice to appoint at least two Executors to work together or to name one with another as a reserve. You may in principle appoint any number but in practice it can be difficult for large groups to effectively work together and a maximum of four Executors may apply for Probate.
It is common for assets to be passed by the Will into some form of trust rather than outright to individuals, for example where part of the estate passes to children under the age of 18. In this case trustees will need to be appointed to hold and manage the assets until it is time to finally distribute them outright. You may choose to appoint the same people to be Executors and Trustees or choose different people or a company to undertake one of the roles.
If you have business interests or any other assets that may require specialist knowledge to manage you may appoint separate Executors and Trustees to administer that part of the estate only.
Security for spouse, civil partner or cohabitee
The family home
If you live with a partner and own your home together it is usually a priority of the Will to ensure that if one of you dies the survivor is secure in the family home. If the home is owned as Joint Tenants it will automatically pass to the survivor regardless of the terms of the Will. If it is owned by one person only or together as Tenants in Common then the Will needs to make provision for the survivor. We will identify the nature of the ownership of your home and advice you on the best way to structure your Will to make the best provision for the survivor.
First and second death
A very common approach is for the first of a couple to die to leave everything to the survivor and then on second death for the estate to be distributed to others. This works well for simple family structures. Where more complicated circumstances apply we can draft Wills that are more flexible and in some cases more tax efficient.
Please think about how you would wish the estate to be distributed on first and second death and we will discuss the best approach to meeting those requirements at our meeting.
Children and Dependants
Your Will should provide for any children on other dependants that you leave behind. Anyone who was financially dependent on you in lifetime that is not provided for in the Will may have grounds to make a legal claim against your estate. Think very carefully before deciding to exclude someone from your Will in this situation
If you die leaving minor children any surviving spouse or partner who has Parental Responsibility will continue to be responsible for the children. If you were the last surviving person with Parental Responsibility, your Will may appoint one or more Guardians to take on the role of Parental Responsibility for the children.
Legacies to young children
Minor children may not inherit property directly, the law requires that their inheritance is held in trust until they reach 18 years old. You may choose to impose a later contingency or say 21 or 25. The assets may be held by the Trustees you appoint in the Will, alternatively you may specify that the asset is passed to the parent(s) of the beneficiary to hold on their behalf.
Distribution of your estate
You may wish to give specific instructions in your Will to distribute amounts of money or high-value or personally important items to certain beneficiaries or to leave legacies to charity. Once these priority legacies have been identified (if any) you will need to choose how the residue of your estate is to be distributed.
Please bear in mind that the instructions in your Will are only carried out (hopefully many years) in the future and there is the possibility that chosen beneficiaries may have died before you. Please consider who should benefit in those circumstances and identify substitute beneficiaries. This will be an important consideration at our meeting.
Inheritance Tax (IHT)
Once we have gathered information on the extent and value of your estate, we will identify the potential liability to IHT that could arise. If there is the likelihood of a significant tax liability or you are particularly keen to leave your estate in the most tax efficient manner we would recommend asking us to conduct a detailed review of the tax position and provide you with a report to identify the best options to mitigate the tax liability – within the scope of what can be done within the law of course!
Don’t forget that human beings may not be the only family members living with you! Your Will may also make provision for who should look after pets after you have gone and set aside funds for that purpose.
Please give thought to the areas identified in this document and gather as much information as you can ahead of our meeting. Don’t fret though, concentrate first and foremost on what you want to achieve, and we’ll make sure that your Will is drafted to effectively carry out your wishes.