Death is not something that we like to think about but we can’t avoid it. Doing nothing can be disastrous and Wills are an invaluable tool for making sure that your wishes are carried out allowing you to leave your affairs "in order" and to make proper provision for your loved ones, even if your family circumstances are complicated.
Inheritance tax is always a hot topic and no-one wants to pay it unnecessarily. Looking at how to structure your assets in the most tax-efficient manner is just part of the comprehensive process we undertake when advising about making Wills..
Why you should make a Will?
There are lots of reasons why you should make a Will. Here are just a few of them:
- You have control over what happens to your estate;
- You choose who will be guardians for your children;
- You can appoint the trustees for your children’s inheritance;
- To provide for a friend or unmarried partner;
- To include special provisions for vulnerable beneficiaries;
- To include special provisions to manage a business, and pass it on, effectively;
- To take advantage of all of the available Inheritance Tax exemptions and reliefs
- To minimise the potential inheritance tax liability on, or after death;
- To take account of foreign property.
It’s not what you have got, but what you do with it - it doesn’t matter if you do not have a particularly large estate. Some of the above points will still apply to you so it is always worth making a Will, because it’s a case of “when”, not “if” .
If you don’t make a Will, the Intestacy Rules set out a strict order of who will benefit and how. Making a Will can avoid all sorts of complications and unintended consequences. .
What does a Will say?
Your Will is a combination of legally binding clauses, administrative provisions (powers for your executors) and clauses which are not legally binding but reflect a particular wish you might have, for example funeral wishes.
The typical lay-out of a Will might be as follows:
- Your full name and address and a declaration that this is your final Will.
- Your funeral wishes.
- Choice of Executors.
- Appointment of guardians.
- Specific gifts or legacies to individuals or charities.
- Trusts. Where there are young children or vulnerable beneficiaries, trusts are an essential feature of your Will. They can also be used for tax planning.
- Provisions dealing with your personal belongings, such as jewellery or paintings.
- A clause dealing with the rest of your estate (called "the Residue" in Wills).
- Administrative provisions, enabling your executors and trustees to deal with your estate effectively.
Wills can be very flexible and should be tailored to suit your particular needs. We also provide specialist advice on Inheritance tax planning, both in Wills and during your lifetime, for example to maximise the use of Inheritance Tax Business Property Relief if you have a qualifying business. Please let us know how we can help.
Your Will is confidential during your lifetime and does not have to be discussed with anyone, even your Executors . Once you have died, the Executors will usually have to apply for a Grant of Probate and once this is received, the Will becomes a public document and anyone can apply for a copy from the Court..
Can you change your Will?
Your Will should reflect your personal, and financial, circumstances at that time - but as we all know these can change, often dramatically. A Will should be viewed as "work in progress" and reviewed regularly. We normally advise every year (the April budget is a good reminder as that is when the tax rules may change) but it is a good idea to having a look if there are any changes in your life -for example, if you have children get divorced or buy a company.. or a beneficiary does!
It is important to be aware that if you get married (or enter into a civil partnership) after you have made you Will, that Will is usually revoked automatically. . If you get divorced, an existing Will stays valid, but takes effect as if your ex-spouse or civil partner had died before you.
It is therefore vitally important that your Will reflects your current circumstances.
Inheritance Tax is a recurring hot topic – as property prices rise, the risk is that more and more people could have a potential inheritance Tax liability on their hands. Thetax rules change from time to time so if you have an estate that could be taxable, you should at least consider this every budget, or if your financial circumstances change (for example you receive an inheritance).Can your Will be changed after your death?
Prevention is usually better than cure and a properly drafted Will can avoid a lot of problems, but it is not always possible to predict what the situation might be when you die. In certain circumstances, it is possible for a beneficiary in a Will to change how their inheritance is dealt with. This can be done up to 2 years after the date of deathand is usually done to reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax payable, or make special provision for someone who may not have been properly provided for.
If you want to make a Will – what do you do next?
If you would like us to prepare a Will for you, please give us a call to make an appointment. The initial meeting will be to discuss your family, and financial circumstances, and provide advice about the different Will structures that can be used as well as exploring opportunities for Inheritance Tax planning, eit
We will send you our Letter of Engagement (terms of business), together with Confirmation of your Instructions, setting out who will be dealing with your Will and explaining our charges. Once the Letter of Engagement and Confirmation of Instructions are signed and returned we can then begin to act for you, by sending out our advice letter following the initial meeting and then, once you have decided which Will structure you want, by sending out the draft documentation for you to approve.
We aim to send out a draft of your Will within a week of receiving your instructions. Once you are happy with the draft documentation, we will prepare the final version for signature - preferably at our office, so we can make sure it is all signed correctly. If you wish, we will then store the original documentation in our off site storage facility (free of charge!) and will provide you with a copies to keep at home.