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Why is it important to write a will?

A will is a legal document which takes effect on your death and enables you to make decisions about your property and belongings. It is a common myth that your spouse or partner will automatically inherit your estate should you die, whereas in reality, this is only the case if your estate is under a certain value or if you have no other relatives who survive you.

If you die without having made a will then the rules of intestacy apply to determine who benefits from your estate. These rules are very restrictive and do not take personal relationships into account, which can be especially problematic if you have a partner but are not married.

A will can also be used to decide who deals with your estate (an executor) and who is to look after any children who are under the age of 18 (a guardian), on your death.

If your estate is over a certain value or if you have foreign, business or agricultural assets then a will can help to reduce the effects of inheritance tax.

What should be included in your will?

When making a will, you need to consider the following:

  • Who you would want to act as your executor: This could be a family member, friend or a professional executor such as a solicitor.
  • Who you would want to be the guardian of any young children: If nobody is appointed to have parental responsibility upon your death, this decision will be left to the courts.
  • Would you like to leave any gifts of property or money to certain people or charities: Some people wish to ensure that family heirlooms are kept within the family, others wish to leave a sum of money for their grandchildren. Such gifts can only be valid if you have made a will.
  • Who you would like to receive the bulk of your estate: This could be your spouse or partner, with a further provision on to children or grandchildren if your spouse/partner dies before you.
  • Is there anybody you wish to exclude from benefiting from your estate: It can sometimes be just as important to ensure that certain people do not benefit from your estate, as to ensure that certain people do.
  • Any funeral directions that you wish to include in your will such as burial or cremation.

There may well be other issues that you need to consider and we would guide you through the whole process. With second and subsequent marriages becoming more and more common, we appreciate that not everyone’s circumstances are straightforward and we always appreciate the need for sensitivity, whilst providing professional advice. A will can also ensure that your estate remains within your family, even if the surviving spouse goes on to remarry. A will can also help mitigate the effects of care fees if long term care becomes necessary. To ensure that your will is valid and considers all your needs and best interests, it should always be drafted or reviewed by a qualified legal practitioner.

What if you already have a will?

We always advise our clients to review their wills every three to five years (or earlier if circumstances change). Some events such as marriage or divorce can have an effect on your will. The birth of a child, for example, may effect your wishes and so it is important to review your will regularly.

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