Making a will can ensure your final wishes are carried out, including where your possessions and money go after your death. It can also save your loved ones from a large inheritance tax bill. If you die without a will then your estate will be dealt with under the Government’s strict intestacy rules; you then have no say where your money and property go when you die. This article explores what a will does that the intestacy rules don’t.
A will appoints executors who deal with your estate after you die. By choosing your family solicitor or sensible, organised and trusted friends or family as your executors you can stop people fighting over who deals with what.
If you have children it is vital that you consider who will look after them if you die before they reach 18 years. Remember, step-parents do not have legal rights unless you make express provision in your will for them to be the Guardian of your children. If no provision is made in your will and there is no living blood relative then the Court may appoint a guardian of its choosing.
Your will can leave specific and often tax free gifts to your loved ones on your death. Watches, jewellery and cars are common examples as is a cash gift to a favoured charity. The intestacy rules do not allow this.
What is my residuary estate?
This is the remainder of your money and property, after all debts, including funeral and administration costs, have been paid and specific legacies have been distributed. It is very important that you make a residuary legacy in your will to avoid part of your estate being subject to the intestacy rules.
Can I leave instructions as to the running of my business?
Yes. Under general law your executors are allowed to run your business for the first year after your death but only with a view to selling it. However, you can leave specific instructions in your will for your executors to continue running your business and even employ staff. Your will can give many instructions and powers to your executors to act as you would have done had you still been alive including insuring your property, investing in property and paying out income and even capital to certain beneficiaries.
Who can I use as a witness when I sign my will?
At least two independent non-beneficiary witnesses must be present when you sign your will. A mistake here can invalidate the whole will. To ensure legal formalities are carried out it is preferable to sign your will in your solicitor’s office where he or she can be a witness to your will together with a colleague.