If you die without having made a will, your assets are automatically distributed according to the rules of intestacy. The distribution depends on whether you are married (or in a registered civil partnership) and whether you have any children. This may well have undesired consequences.
Having a will ensures your estate is distributed according to your instructions and wishes.
You should firstly consider who your executors will be. These are the people you trust to administer your estate according to your will.
When making a will it would be helpful for your executors if you keep a clear written summary of your assets (and debts).
You should consider who the beneficiaries of your estate will be. Your spouse or partner is typically the first beneficiary you will want to provide for. Other beneficiaries may include relatives, friends, charities, and other organisations you would like to make gifts to.
Your will can name classes of beneficiary (eg all your grandchildren – including those who may be unborn at the time of writing the will). The will should also take into account what will happen if a beneficiary predeceases you: for example, whether you would want a deceased child’s share of your estate to pass instead to his or her family. The will should make it clear what is to be given to each beneficiary.
Gifts can be put in trust rather than made out-right. For example, you might use a trust to control assets that are being passed to children (or young adults) or to individuals who are incapable of looking after their own financial affairs.
Wills commonly include an indication of your wishes for your funeral, though these are not binding on your executors. You may want to prepare a separate letter of wishes providing guidance for your executors. For example, such guidance might be aimed at helping them understand how you would want different beneficiaries of a trust to be treated. Again, this is not binding on your executors.
Finally, it is worth reviewing your will regularly, particularly if there are changes in your family circumstances, your financial position or in the law relating to wills and inheritance tax. Your will can be amended as necessary with an appropriate ‘codicil’, or a new will drawn up and the existing will revoked.
Should you require assistance in preparing a will, please contact our Miss Natalie Thomas on 01792 656513, who will be able to assist you.
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