What are the different decisions surrounding making a will?
It is important to make a Will because if you die without one, there are certain legal rules which dictate how your assets will be divided. For example, if you are married, your spouse will not automatically receive your entire estate if you also have children. Similarly, an unmarried partner will not receive anything unless you make a Will. By having a Will, you set out your instructions for who will inherit your estate, what should happen after you die, and who will be the persons to ensure your Will is followed.
There are significant decisions that have to be made when making a Will which solicitors can assist you with. Below are a few examples:
Simple Will vs. Complex Will
A solicitor can help you decide how complex your Will needs to be in order to appropriately dispose of your assets according to your wishes. Every individual has different circumstances, for instance children from a previous relationship, assets overseas or a complex family structure. A solicitor can help you what is most important to you and draft a Will that deals with your assets and provides for your loved ones in the way you want it to.
Providing for Children
A crucial consideration for parents is who will care for their minor children should something happen to them. A solicitor will be able to offer advice in naming an appropriate guardian/s and will help you go through your options and the practical arrangements. A solicitor can also advise you in drafting a letter of wishes that sets out your preferences for the raising of your child. If a guardian is not named, local authorities are charged with deciding a person who you might not have chosen yourself.
A Will can set out a plan for your child’s finances including making financial arrangements to cover the expenses of bringing up your child in the event of your death. A solicitor can give you advice regarding financial structures to protect the child’s inheritance, for example, in the form of a trust where trustees are given instructions as to when they can make distributions to the child. Unless the Will states otherwise, children automatically receive access to their assets at 18. You might think 18 is too young for your child to be financially responsible. If so, you can set a higher age or conditions on their access. A solicitor can provide tailored advice to your specific wishes and intentions for your children’s inheritance.
Inheritance Tax Planning
A crucial role a Wills and Probate solicitor plays when assisting you with making your Will is providing inheritance tax advice. Estate planning is a key priority for individuals wanting to ensure their loved ones are not faced with a larger tax bill than necessary when inheriting their estate.
Depending on your assets, a solicitor will help you structure your WIll to make the provisions as tax efficient as possible. Getting advice from a solicitor can help you plan for any taxes and often reduce or even eliminate the amount of inheritance tax your estate will need to pay before your assets are transferred to your loved ones, protecting them from unnecessary stress and expenses.
A solicitor can provide advice upon how Inheritance tax would apply to your specific circumstances, and how best to take advantage of all the relevant exemptions and allowances.
Dangers of Home-Made Wills
Homemade Wills can appear an attractive option because of their nominal cost and ease of drafting. However, they can give rise to a number of problems that may cause considerable stress and difficulty for the surviving family. A solicitor will ensure that your Will is properly drafted, signed and witnessed in accordance with the law that governs the signing of Wills. If correct procedure is not used the Will can be invalid.
Homemade Wills can give rise to suspicion within the family, who may feel they have been made under pressure of another person who was present and benefits, or with ambiguous terms that can lead to a dispute, resulting in legal costs that can eat into your beneficiaries inheritance. Although English Law provides you can choose who benefits under your estate it may be possible, in some circumstances, for persons to make claims against your estates, or challenge the Will, if not provided for sufficiently under the terms of your homemade Will. Without advice a homemade Will may not be drafted to limit risks of such a claim. Therefore, paying a solicitor to draft a Will has the potential to save your beneficiaries a fortune in the future.
How Hanne & Co can help
At Hanne & Co, we cover all aspects of drafting Wills and offering tax planning advice. We can offer fixed fee rates for drafting your Will(s) depending on their complexity. Get in touch by calling 020 7228 0017 or visit our Wills, Probate & Trusts page to find out more.