Without making a will, you won’t be able to ensure your estate (your money, possessions, property and investments) passes to the people of your choice. If you and your partner are not married or in a civil partnership, then neither of you will have an automatic right to inherit from the other if you don’t have a will. A will also allows you to make sure you don’t pay too much Inheritance Tax.
Knowing what to include in your will, however, isn’t always obvious. To help you, our experts share a few of the most important things to consider by way of a checklist for making a will.
The executor of your will is responsible for dealing with your estate and affairs when the time comes. It is down to them to distribute your inheritance to those stipulated in your will.
When appointing an executor, or executors, you should always discuss the matter with your chosen representatives and make sure they are happy to take on the role. Also be sure to let them know where your will is stored, and think about having a backup in place in case your first choice executor is unable to fulfil the role.
There is a lot of responsibility associated with being an executor, and it can be very time consuming, so be sure to choose someone you can rely on, and who has the capacity to do the job.
If your estate is particularly complicated, or you feel there is no one suitable to take on the role, you can appoint a professional executor, such as a firm of solicitors or financial planners.
Consider funeral wishes
If you have particular wishes for your funeral, including what you’d like to happen to your body, then your will is the place to record them.
Think about who you’d like to leave your estate to
When making a will, one of the most important aspects has to be deciding who gets what. The people who inherit your assets are known as the ‘beneficiaries’ of your estate.
There is a lot to think about, especially if you have beneficiaries who are not yet adults. You may, for example, wish to stipulate at what age a young beneficiary will receive their inheritance, in which case it may be wise to set up a trust to protect their inheritance until such times as they are to receive it.
If you have a beneficiary who is vulnerable, or who lacks the capacity to manage their own finances, then you may wish to make special provision for them, again potentially through a trust. You will need expert advice here from a will writing specialist, as it is important to consider any welfare assistance the beneficiary is getting, and how it might be affected by their inheritance.
Considering what should happen to your estate should one or all of your beneficiaries die before you is also important. If the gift fails, who should it go to next?
There may be certain items you wish to leave to a particular person, and you can specify these in your will by including the person’s full name and address. Again, think about whether you would want these items to pass to someone else should your original choice of beneficiary die before you.
You may wish to exclude someone from your will, in which case again, it is vital to take professional advice, because excluding dependants may lead to a claim being made on your estate by those who have been left out. It is often wise to clearly set out your reasons for excluding anyone from a will so that these can be considered should someone contest it. This can be done via a Letter of Wishes.
Thinking about any legacy you’d like to leave to a charity is important too, as is deciding who should inherit the remainder of your estate once everyone else has received their inheritance.
Factor in Inheritance Tax
The current Inheritance Tax (IHT) threshold is £325,000. If the total value of your estate is more than this amount once any debts or loans have been deducted, then your beneficiaries will be liable for IHT.
Married couples and civil partners will usually be able to transfer any unused threshold between themselves so, on the death of the surviving partner, their estate may be able to claim a double allowance of £650,000.
The Residence Nil Rate Band may also allow direct lineal descendants to inherit the main family home with a further tax-free allowance.
It may be possible to make lifetime gifts to minimise the IHT payable on your estate, although you should consider that if you die within seven years of making the gift, it may still be taxable.
There are sometimes other provisions that can be made to help minimise the amount of Inheritance Tax payable by your beneficiaries. Taking specialist Inheritance Tax planning advice is therefore vital if you have a desire to leave as much of your estate as possible tax free.
Appoint guardians for young children
Making a will is the only way to name legal guardians for any young children. This is obviously something that will require a great deal of thought and discussion with your chosen guardians.
Always consider having backup guardians in place, in case your first choice is unable to step in when the time comes. This really is one of the most important aspects of your checklist for making a will.
Consider business interests
When writing a will, UK business owners or private company shareholders should always consider how they would like to pass their interests on.
Important considerations include stipulating shareholder or partnership options; changing the company articles of association to allow the terms of your will to be implemented, and introducing new partners or shareholders from within your family to carry on the business after you’ve gone.
Looking at making a will? Talk to Partridge Muir & Warren.
PMW offers a personalised, trusted will writing service.
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If you are ready to begin your journey towards making a will in the UK, our expert team is ready to guide you through the process, step by step. To learn more about how we can help, you are welcome to get in touch.