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What is a will?
A Will is a legal document which declares who will manage your estate and how your property will be distributed when you die.
Do I need a solicitor?
No, however it is highly recommended that you use one. There are specific requirements which must be met when making a Will and it is a solicitor’s job to make sure they are met. If your Will is not written correctly it may be invalid and your property will be distributed as if you died intestate. Another risk is that your Will may be valid but the legal interpretation may not reflect your intentions at the time of writing. A solicitor will ensure your Will reflects how you want your property to be dealt with, and that the Will is valid. Their knowledge of inheritance tax planning is also useful.
What happens if I die without a Will?
Dying without a Will is called intestacy.There are rules as to how your property will be distributed depending on your family circumstances. The dispositions will be determined by whether you have a spouse or civil partner, and/or children. In some circumstances your parents, grandchildren, siblings and nieces and nephews can inherit.
How long is a Will valid for?
A Will does not have an expiry date. However, it is advisable to review your will periodically. If you acquire new property, or there are changes in your circumstances such as a marriage, your Will should be changed to reflect your circumstances.
Can I make a joint Will with my spouse?
A joint Will cannot be made in the sense that there cannot be just one document. However, spouses can make Wills which dispose of property in an identical way. These are called mirror Wills and each testator can alter his or her Will. These Wills can be made in a legally binding, contractual agreement by inserting provisions into the Wills that the testators will not alter their Wills. There can be alterations by mutual agreement while the testators are still alive, but mutual Wills will usually include provisions which will sanction the testator who alters his or her Will after the other testator has died.
How much does a solicitor charge for a Will?
It will vary depending on how complicated the Will needs to be. A solicitor will charge upwards of £150 for a basic Will.
What should I include in my Will?
There needs to be sufficient identification that the Will is yours. The usual things included in a Will are distributions of property, arrangements for looking after your children (if they are under 18), an executor (the person who manages your estate after you die) and what should happen if the people who you want to receive property die before you do. You can include conditions on dispositions and create a trust in the Will. Your Will needs to revoke all prior Wills. Your solicitor will ensure that all the necessary inclusions are provided for, as well as any additions you want to make which are particular to your circumstances. There must be two witnesses present when you sign the Will and they must also sign it.
I am not married but I live with my partner. Should I make a Will?
Absolutely. If you die without a Will your de-facto partner will not inherit any of your property unless you are beneficial joint tenants in property you both own.
Who can I appoint as executors?
You can appoint any person (over the age of 18) of your choice.
How can I avoid inheritance tax?
The inheritance tax rate is 40% of the value of the estate which is over £325,000. It will be paid by the executor using the estate’s funds. Inheritance tax will not be charged if it is stated in your Will that your property is to go to solely to your spouse or civil partner. If you die intestate there may be dispositions to other family members and tax will be charged on this.
If you have a life insurance policy this should be put into a trust. Trusts can be utilised in other ways to avoid inheritance tax. Additionally, if you make tax-exempt gifts to your intended beneficiaries at least 7 years before your death, these dispositions will not be calculated as part of your estate.
If you have any further questions please contact our private client department on 0208 290 7354.