If you’ve ever lost a person close to you then you know just how traumatic an experience it is. The emotional impact is pretty much impossible to avoid, but many people find themselves struggling to handle their grief in the face of practical issues around handling the estate which the deceased has left behind. Many of these issues – what to do with a family home, how to divide any items left behind etc. – are easily resolved if the person in question has gone to the trouble of leaving a will setting out their wishes. The problem is that many people put off writing a will until it is too late. Sometimes this can be caused by a fear that writing a will is somehow ‘morbid’, but all too often it is simply down to the fact that the person in question doesn’t know how to make a will. If this is the case then accessing the expert advice of the team at Higgins Miller could be the answer for anyone who wants to make things easier for the friends and loved ones they leave behind.
Here at Higgins Miller we specialise in matters of family law and are used to dealing with complex issues such as divorce, probate, and adoption. As such, our experts know how to offer advice in a manner which is clear, accessible and sympathetic, and we’ll explain exactly why you need to write a will, what the process entails and how to ensure it will be valid after you’re no longer here.
Why Write a Will?
If you don’t write a will then you will die ‘intestate’, which means that everything you leave will be divided along strict grounds, rather than being left to the people you may wish it to be left to. If you have a spouse or civil partner then they will inherit the whole of your estate. If you have children as well then your spouse or partner will inherit the first £250,000 of your estate, plus half of what is left and all of your personal possessions, with your children inheriting the other half of what is left after the initial £250,000. If your partner or spouse is deceased then your estate will be shared equally by any children you have, and if you have neither a spouse nor children, then everything will be divided between relatives such as parents, siblings, nephews, and nieces. The fact that you didn’t set your wishes out clearly could have an impact on the amount of Inheritance Tax which is due and is almost bound to delay the process of your loved ones being able to access what you’ve left behind. If you have clear wishes about who should receive what in the event of your death, then finding out how to make a will is the only way to make sure that these wishes are met.
The first thing to do before making a will is sit down and value the estate which the will deal with. This means listing all of the assets you have and their most recent valuations. In order to maintain the relevancy of your will, it’s vital that you have your assets valued on a regular basis as to how much they are worth – particularly in the case of assets such as property – can rise or fall over time. The assets in question should include the following:
- Any properties you own
- Any savings you have
- Insurance policies
- Pension funds
- Investments such as stocks and shares
- Personal belongings such as jewelry, antiques, and artworks
- Furniture and household contents
The overall value of your estate will be the figure reached when any debts you have are deducted from the value of the assets. These debts might include personal debts, a mortgage, loans or a credit card balance.
Having established how much your estate is worth, you have to choose how you wish to divide it. This might mean leaving specific items to particular individuals before dividing anything which is left over, or you may decide to leave a percentage of your estate to a spouse or partner and set percentages to other individuals. You should also think about what would happen if one of the beneficiaries was to die before you do, and you may also want to leave a certain amount to a charity. If you do mention a charity in your will then you’ll need to include the full name and address of the charity as well as its registered charity number.
The executor of the will is the person who carries out the instructions you leave behind. This can sometimes be a complex task which takes several months, as they have to deal with the sale of any property which is to be shared amongst several people, as well as ensuring that the right amount of Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax and Income Tax is paid. You can choose one of the benefactors as an executor, and many people opt for a spouse or one of their children, as long as they are aged over 18. It’s permissible to appoint two executors, and people often opt for a family member working with a professional such as a solicitor.
Writing the Will
To make sure that your will is valid it must be in writing and must be signed by you and two other people. You also need to have made the will of your own volition, without any pressure, and to have the mental capacity to understand what your will means. The will should start by saying that it revokes any previous wills and if you have written a will before you should destroy it. Failure to do so could lead to time-consuming and expensive legal arguments in the event of your death. You have to sign the will in front of the witnesses, and it is vital that the witnesses, their spouses or partners shouldn’t be a beneficiary. If a witness is mentioned in the will, the will is still valid, but the witness will not be entitled to whatever you wanted to leave to them.
If you’d like to learn more about how to make a will, thus ensuring that you have the peace of mind of knowing that your wishes will be carried out after your death, then please contact the team at Higgins Miller. You can email us at [email protected] or call 0161 429 7251. We’ll give you a 20-minute appraisal free of charge and we also offer a fixed fee first appointment scheme. For more on our funding options, please see here.