Hi I’m Claire, a trained solicitor, will writer and Wills Consultant at Almond Wills.
A Will is often something that people have on their agenda, especially when they become a parent, however the horrible thoughts it raises often means it gets pushed to the back of people’s minds!
I’ve listed a few FAQ’s below to hopefully help make the thought process behind making a Will a bit easier!
1. I see lots of different companies who advertise their will writing services. What should I be looking out for?
It’s important to use someone who has been legally trained to write Wills. The drafting of a Will is a complex matter and correct drafting skills need to be applied in order to ensure that every clause in the Will carries out your wishes and furthermore, avoid negligence claims in the future. Having said that, I have seen clients who have used large law firms and paid a lot of money and have ended up with an invalid Will due to it not being dated. It’s also important to have confidence in the person you’re using. I’ve had clients who have chosen to amend their Wills, and haven’t realised that the previous firm had appointed themselves as an executor – this would have been a huge cost to their estate if they were to pass away.
The main thing to look for is that the firm has insurance and that they are a member of a regulatory body such as the Institute of Professional Will writers.
2. I’m finding it really difficult to find the time to make an appointment. It’s not the nicest thing to have to take time off work to do!
A lot of Will writers will work around you. Many make home visits and do evening appointments for precisely this reason!
3. What happens once I’ve decided I do want to make a Will?
A consultant would meet with you in your home (depending on location) and will take your instructions. They will explain the best type of Will based on the information you give. A draft Will will then be sent to you for your approval by email. Once you are happy with the Will, a formal Will will be drawn up. The consultant will then visit you again in order to supervise the signing and witnessing of the Will.
Most Will writers will offer a free Will checking service. They will look through your Will and check if any amendments need to be made. If amendments are necessary, these are usually done at a reduced fee.
5. Can I use my Will to appoint guardians of my children?
Yes, its very important to think about who you would want the guardians of your children to be in the event of your death. Anyone appointed in your Will as a guardian is given Parental Responsibility. A lot of people appoint their siblings and their spouses. A point worth noting however is that if you do appoint a couple, if they were to split up, they would both still have parental responsibility.
6. Can I leave everything to my children, even though they are minors?
You can leave everything to your children however a trust will need to be created where the trustees appointed in your Will (normally the executors) look after the money until they reach 18 (or a later age decided by you). Children under 18 cannot have direct access to inherited funds.
7. What type of things do I need to consider before the initial meeting?
We will need to see both passports or driving licences for identity checks. Its useful to have an idea of how much everything you own including the house is worth. You should also have a think about who you want to have as your executors as well as substitutes if they are unable to act.
It is also important to consider guardians for any minor children and substitute guardians.
Have a think about any specific gifts of items or money you want to leave in your will, whether you want to leave money to charity and a list of full names and addresses.
Its horrible to think about but you also need to think about a situation where something happens to you and those who you have chosen to inherit, who would you then want your estate to go to?
8. Is there a benefit in leaving money to charity?
Inheritance tax is currently payable at a rate of 40% for estates valued at over £325,000. If you decide to leave 10% of your estate to charity, the amount of Inheritance tax payable reduces to 38%.
9. Who can be a witness when I sign the will?
The witness needs to be independent and cannot benefit from the will in any way. If a witness is also a beneficiary in the will, the will is still valid however the gift to that beneficiary will fail.
10. Will I have to pay inheritance tax?
Each person has £325,000 before tax is payable at 40%. If you leave everything to your spouse, there is a spousal exemption, so no inheritance tax would be payable. On the second death, as you wouldn’t have used any of your £325,000 allowance, there would then be £650,000 before any tax is payable. In 2017, the government are bringing in the family homes allowance. This means that if you leave the family home to each other and then the children, each person would have an extra £175,000 taking the total for a married couple to £1 million before any inheritance tax is payable.
The law relating to inheritance tax is not so kind to unmarried couples in that there is no family homes allowance and there is no spousal exemption. There are ways however to reduce the amount of inheritance tax payable, so again, it’s important to use someone with the requisite training.
I hope that explains a little bit of the thought process involved in making a Will. If you have any more questions, please don’t hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone us on 0843 886 5767.