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Why make a Will and testament?
What is a Last Will?
Your Will lets you make decisions about what happens to your money, property and possessions after your death.
If you don’t make a Last Will and testament, what happens is decided by the Rules of Intestacy which can be especially unfortunate for unmarried couples and in second marriages and separation.
Your Will (if correctly written) can also make sure your family don’t have to pay more Inheritance Tax than necessary.
You can write your will yourself, but you should get legal advice (preferably from us!) to make sure your Will is interpreted in the way you would have expected – many are not.
- You need to get your Will formally witnessed and signed to make it legally valid.
- You can make minor amendments to a Will by way of a separate document called a “codicil” but it is always preferable to rewrite the Will to make certain things are clear, and avoid the possibility of losing the codicil. If you attach anything at all to the Will you are likely to invalidate it.
- Getting married also cancels you Will, unless it was made specifically in the expectation of your getting married (to that person) and your intention is clear. If that happens and the Will still does what you wish, it is possible to save it by way of a special document.
- You can’t leave your witnesses (or their married partners) anything in your will.
Who can make a Will?
For your Will to be legally valid, you must:
· be 18 or over ( exceptions for persons on active service under that age)
· make it voluntarily
· be of sound mind
· make it in writing
· sign it in the presence of 2 witnesses who are both over 18
· have it signed by your 2 witnesses, in your presence: if you make any changes to your will you must follow the same signing and witnessing process.
What should be included in your Last Will?
Your will should make clear:
· Who you want to benefit and how.
· Who should look after any children under 18 (their guardians.)
· Who is going to sort out your estate (your executor.)
· What happens if the people you want to benefit die before you.
In almost every case, your Will will need to be reviewed and updated as life, the Law, Tax and family circumstances change. That is where their Peace of Mind Service comes in handy.
When you need our legal advice
Ideally, always, but we appreciate that not everyone can afford to pay fees, but DIY Wills are potentially dangerous.
Here are some circumstances where it is especially important to get sound Legal Advice:
· if you have a so called “common law” partner.
· You want to leave money or property to a dependant who can’t care for themselves.
· You have anyone who might dispute your Will.
· Your permanent home is outside the UK or you have overseas assets.
· You have a business.
· If your estate is large enough to pay Inheritance Tax, or may be if you inherit.
- You have a complicated family and want to ensure everyone is protected properly.
Update your will (see Peace of Mind Service)
You should review your will every 2 years at least and after any major change in your life, eg:
· getting separated or divorced.
· getting married (this cancels any will you made before.)
· having a child.
· moving house.
· if the executor named in the will dies.
Making changes to your Will
You can’t amend your will after it’s been signed and witnessed. The only way you can change a will is by making an official alteration called a codicil.
You must sign a codicil and get it witnessed in the same way as witnessing a will.
There’s no limit on how many codicils you can add to a will. But it is much better to do a new Will each time, to take into account all the current circumstances.
Making a new Will
For major changes you should make a new Will.
Your new Will should explain that it revokes (officially cancels) all previous wills and codicils. You should destroy your old will by burning it or tearing it up.
Make A Will Online
Or just give us the basic information before a discussion (online service currently down).
Ideally, everyone would get professional advice on making such a vital document as a Last Will and Testament. We recognise that some people have uncomplicated lives. So we offer a couple of options:
- You can do the whole thing online, the Will or Wills will be emailed to you to print out, bind and sign. That is cheaper, £79 for a single Will and £135 for mirror Wills. We have no involvement and can offer no advice if you take this route, though there is online help.
- You can put in the basic background details needed to minimise the amount of time you need to spend discussing your situation with our professionals, pay the fee above then contact the office to pay the balance of the fees for normal Wills which are £159 for a single Will and £235 for a pair of mirror Wills. (That is £80 and £100 more). The office will then download the information you have entered and make an appointment for to discuss the issues over the phone.
- If the situation is more complicated, then the following will give you an idea of the options.
Here is the link to our Online Will Writing Service. It is on a separate secure server for your protection.
Existing Peace of Mind Service members save 25% on making a Will.
|FEES including VAT at 20%||One person||Two similar Wills|
|Normal “Family” Wills||£159||£235|
|Property Trust Wills||£379||£497|
|Flexible Life Interest Trust Wills||£697||£900|
|Tax Planning Will with business trusts||£1065||£1297|
Types of Will:
Normal Family Wills (“mirror wills”)
Typically leave everything to each other and then the children. This often causes problems later on in life, which is why the next type of Will should be considered.
Property Trust Wills
- This is where the deceased’s share of the property is put in trust for the benefit of the survivor during their lifetime, but the capital is ring fenced for the beneficiaries of the person who has died.
- This protects their capital from being used up in care home fees for the survivor.
- The survivor may become vulnerable in old age and be persuaded to leave everything to – for example – a carer. This type of Will protects at least the deceased person’s share which is held in a protective trust.
- Especially useful where there are children from different relationships to be taken into account, since you can look after your partner during their lifetime AND eventually pass your assets to your intended beneficiaries.
- If the survivor is lonely and remarries, the deceased’s share of the property is ring fenced and cannot be inherited by the new spouse and their children or any other of the surviving spouses chosen beneficiaries (e.g. step children.) With much longer lives, remarriage late in life is increasingly likely. This type of Will keeps things fair to everyone.
- These trusts can be used strategically to save inheritance tax. Please ask for a paid consultation with Ingrid McCleave our Head of Legal, if inheritance tax is a problem for you.
Flexible Life Interest Trust Wills
This is very similar to the Property Will Trusts above, except you put all your assets into the trust, not just your share of the property. This gives your whole estate the protections described above.
So for example, if you have your share of the home and say £200,000 cash, your home and the cash will be ring fenced and your surviving partner would have the right to income from the cash and rent from the property if it was let and the right to reside in the property if they wanted to continue living in the property or move. In addition, you could if you so wished give them access to capital sums should they require them, with the agreement of your executors.
More in-depth advice is needed, where Wills include business related assets (to save inheritance tax and sometimes capital gains tax), foreign nationals or advice on overseas matters.
Please feel free to include a note about any other issues you wish us to consider.
Legislation in force places an obligation upon solicitors to verify the identification of their clients. Such verification may take the form of an online identity check. To complete this check we will require the following:
- Your driving licence number or a photocopy of your driving licence
The long number at the bottom of your photo passport page, which is a long number and chevrons (not your passport number). We require the numbers and the chevrons as displayed on your passport. or a photocopy of your passport photo page
- Your current full address including post code, your date of birth. Payment by cheque or card in your name and at the address you have given us
As you are a client of the firm we must follow this money laundering procedure, failing which we run the risk of criminal charges being brought against us and in extreme cases, a prison sentence.
No Lasting Power of Attorney?
If there are not already Lasting Powers of Attorney in place, someone must apply to the Court of Protection to be your Deputy should you lose mental competence through age, serious illness or accident. The cost of this is likely to be well over £1,000 and sometimes far more. The majority of applications for Welfare LPAs are turned down, essentially leaving welfare decisions (such as where you live, medical matters to Social Services rather than the family. Existing (old) Enduring Powers of Attorney remain valid and are similar to a Finance LPA.
Before you decide not to have the Health and Welfare LPA, Google “Heather Bateman” and “Betty Figg” – you will be shocked at how your children could be jailed for looking after your best interests but without the authority they could have with Lasting Powers of Attorney. 6 months jail for taking your mother out of a care home she hated to your home which she loved is just wrong.
Lasting Powers of Attorney cannot be used until they are registered, at a Court fee of up to £110 each
Registration is important for two reasons:
- It takes at least 3 months, which is a long time to wait after an accident.
- Because the Public Guardian can be very particular, LPAs can be rejected for minor errors: if you have lost the ability to make decisions at that time, it may be too late to do anything about it, and the alternative of applying for Deputyship is expensive and time consuming.