Making a will is a smart thing to do if you want to save your survivors time and trouble. And perhaps, depending on your circumstances make sure your executor knows who you would like to inherit your wealth. It also provides an opportunity to legally manage any estate duties.
However, if you do not leave a will, then British laws of inheritance will click in, and decide on your behalf as follows:
1… If you have a spouse / civil partner and children who are alive, then your spouse inherits (a) your personal possessions and (b) half your estate to a minimum value of £250,000. Your children share any residual between them.
2… If you have a spouse / civil partner but no children, then they inherit your entire estate including your personal possessions.
3… If your spouse / civil partner dies before you or at the same time, then any children you had share your estate equally between them.
4…. However, if you and your civil partner were not married, then your relationship does not exist under British law. They and any children you had together inherit nothing.
5… In that case, any surviving parents, brothers, sisters, and nieces and nephews may share your estate.
6… If you have no surviving relatives, then HM Treasury decides what to do with your hard-earned wealth, like this idea or not.
I Heard Making a Will is Expensive – Is This True?
The Law Society prescribes the fees a solicitor may charge for administering an estate. At the time of writing, those fees were (a) a fixed cost of a minimum £155, and (b) between 1% and 5% percent of the estate value. The actual amount depends on the complexity of the estate.
However, those fees do not come out of your pocket when you write the will. Your estate will owe the money to the solicitor, and this, like all other debt must be paid before your heirs get anything.
I Don’t Want to Share My Personal Information with a Solicitor
You don’t have to under the inheritance law of England and Wales. Making a will does not necessarily mean using a solicitor either. You could write your own will, or have a friend do it for you. It’s extremely important to mention the person you want as executor of your will. This should be someone you trust to apply for probate on your behalf.
However, they won’t get a single penny for their trouble in terms of UK Law Society rules. You have to include a clause detailing how much your estate will pay them. This is only fair, because winding up estates can become complicated.
Fair Enough. I’ll Do That. How Do I Go About Making a Will?
Is Your Estate Simple or Complicated
If your worldly possessions are uncomplicated – say just your home, furniture and a few bank accounts, then there may be no reason why you cannot make your own will. But if you have a network of businesses, trusts, stocks and other investments then you should probably consult a solicitor first.
The Four Basic Steps to Any Will
1… Draw up a personal balance sheet of your assets. This will help you (a) value your estate, and (b) determine whether you have any assets you would like to leave to particular heirs.
Your debts are also important, because your executor must settle them first before implementing your will. It’s important to revalue your assets regularly to know whether your estate may incur estate duty or not. Include your balance sheet with your will to simplify your executor’s task.
2… Decide how you would like your estate shared. Making a will can be tough, because you must make emotional decisions while you are still alive. Do you want to leave particular things to particular people, or just allocate shares of your overall estate? What do you want to happen if one of your heirs dies?
3… Sit down in a quiet place, away from distractions and write out your will. If this is your first experience of this, lay your hands on a pro-forma copy with the legalities in place. Then you just need to add your personal details, and how you want your assets shared.
Some banks and charities offer free advice in the hope of becoming paid executors, or receiving donations. There’s no reason why you can’t ask them for advice. There’s no legal obligation to continue with them afterwards either.
4… And Finally, Tick the Check Boxes Your Will is Legal …
Your will must be an original printed, or handwritten document, signed by you in the presence of two independent witnesses. And all three people must be in a room together when they sign. That’s because your witnesses may be asked to confirm you signed the will voluntarily without being under pressure, and you had mental capacity to do so at the time.
However, there are temporary exceptions to this signing rule in place during the coronavirus epidemic. A witness may currently perform their role through an open window, from the garden, and even during a video call.