What is a Will?
A Will is a document which only comes into force when you die. You may make several Wills during your lifetime but only the last one at death will be followed. Making a Will does not stop you making gifts of your belongings and assets in your lifetime.
In a Will, you choose the Executors and therefore the people you trust to deal with your paperwork, your personal belongings, closing your accounts, paying your bills and seeing that the right people inherit.
Types of gift
You may want to leave a specific item to a relative such as a piece of jewellery or your golf clubs. You can choose to leave a legacy to a very good cause or charity or a longstanding neighbour who has become a really good friend. Everything else that you own is called the residuary estate and may well be left to family. A good draftsman will draft the Will so that even if your assets change in your lifetime, they are covered by your Will at your death. The residue in a Will, will mean all assets that you own, whether it be cash in the bank or shares or a life policy or property.
How long does it take to make?
Making a Will should only take a matter of a few weeks. Generally, Solicitors will see you to talk through what you want to do and then prepare a draft document. You might be happy with the draft or you might want to make some amendments before settling on the version that is signed. Sadly, sometimes, matters become urgent and we are used to making Wills very quickly when required.
What does it all cost?
Most Solicitors will have fixed fees for making a Will so you will know at the outset what it is going to cost. You are best to choose a Solicitor who is experienced in this sort of work and not a Will writer or financial institution. They may insist you appoint them as Executor where the choice of Executor is entirely up to you.
Can I make a Will at home?
Yes, you can make a homemade Will but Wills have to be signed in accordance with the provisions of the Wills Act 1837 or they are not valid and fail. Katherine’s experience of homemade Wills is that they cost far more to administer because they don’t follow legal wording and are unclear. It really does make sense to use a professional to draw up a Will for you.
Can I cancel or change my Will?
Yes. Small changes can be made by a codicil which is like a post-script to your Will and just changes part of your Will or adds something new. If you make a new Will, this will cancel the earlier Will you have made.
What happens if I don’t have a Will?
If you don’t have a Will, then law laid down in 1925 says which relatives inherit. This may not be what you want. It may lead to a higher inheritance tax bill. You may need to protect a beneficiary from themselves or ensure they receive their entitlement without affecting any benefits they are entitled to.
What happens when I die?
Where you have a Will, the Executors can act from the moment a person dies. If there is no Will then strictly speaking, nobody can act at all until the probate court has issued the Grant of Letters of Administration and this may take several weeks. Matters really are made much easier, less stressful and less costly for those left behind when there is a Will in force.
If you need help, please feel free to contact Katherine Jordan on 0113 223 1400 or email her on [email protected].
Thinking about writing your will, or want more information?
On January 19th 2017 we will be holding a Will Writing Workshop where you can meet with Katherine and discuss your questions and learn more about the process of writing a will.
The workshop will be 2pm-4pm in Stonegate Way. Tenants can email [email protected] to reserve your place.