Wills Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Wills Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why do I need a Will?

  • Specify who will inherit your assets. Making a Will is the only way to ensure that your assets go to your loved ones in the way that you would like. If you have not made a Will the law decides how your estate is distributed and in some cases it may go to the Crown.
  • Unmarried partners. If you are living with someone but are not married to them it is critical that you make a Will to protect them, otherwise they may get nothing. Unmarried partners have very little protection in law and the idea of a "common law partner" has no legal standing.
  • Personal possessions. Even if you do not have substantial financial or property assets you may still have important personal possessions which you may wish to leave to particular people.
  • Nominate guardians for your children. A Will is particularly important if you have children as you can specify who you would like to look after them if you died.
  • Avoid family disputes. If you do not leave a Will you are increasing the chances of your estate being disputed my family members later on. By making a Will you can avoid any dispute by making it clear exactly what you want to happen.
  • Specify your funeral wishes.
  • Make donations to charity or favoured causes.

What happens if I die without making a Will?

If you die without leaving a Will (intestate) your estate is distributed according to the laws of intestacy. The laws specify how assets are distributed to family members in a fixed order. If you have no family members then your assets will go to the crown.The danger of dying intestate is that you will have no say in who gets what. Family members who you may not wish to could inherit your assets. Likewise, people who are not blood relatives, such as unmarried partners, may not receive anything.

What are the dangers of home made Wills?

Many people write home made Wills, buy Will making kits from stationers or use online providers with very little or no advice in the belief that they will be effective. In many cases they are not because of mistakes made or lack of understanding of the law. It is important to remember that the cost of a professionally written Will includes the advice given by an expert, such as a solicitor, who is subject to regulation by the Law Society. There are many rules which govern how Wills are drawn up and witnessed. If you have an incorrectly written Will it may be disregarded or ineffective when you die. This can result in you effectively being intestate and your assets not going to those you wish. The legal costs incurred to rectify any errors in a home made Will may well exceed the cost of a professionally prepared Will.                         

When meeting with us to discuss your will, we gather information of your assets, your family circumstances and other matters to ensure the will is tailored to your particular requirements.

How often should I update my Will?

If you have already made a Will it is important that it is kept up to date to reflect your circumstances. You should review your Will whenever your circumstances change in any significant way. Things which may affect your Will include:

  • Divorce or separation
  • Having children
  • Buying or selling a large asset such as a house
  • Marriage

As a general rule it is recommended that you have your Will checked at least every 5 years to ensure that it still reflects your requirements.

What are mirror Wills?

Mirror Wills is the term applied to almost identical Wills made by a husband and wife. It relates to when both parties have the same Will but in reverse, for example, they leave everything to the other partner and thereafter to the children. The surviving partner is usually the executor, although it is important to add an additional executor in case both partners were to die at the same time.

For couples it is not possible to have a joint Will. Each person must have their own Will, although the cost of making mirror Wills is usually less than the cost of making 2 Wills independently.

Can I appoint guardians for my children in my Will?

Yes. If you have children under 18 it is important to consider who would take care of them in the event of both parents passing away at the same time. While family members may step in to care for them, it may not be who you would choose to do so. Appointing guardians enables you to have some say in who would bring them up. It can also help to avoid disputes between opposing family members who would all like to help. By stating your wishes in a Will you can make it clear exactly what you would like to happen. In choosing guardians consideration needs to be given to the age, health and financial circumstances of the selected parties.

Our experienced lawyers can help you with appointing guardians in your Will.

I am remarried, how can I leave my property to my children from an earlier marriage?

If you have remarried and have children from a previous marriage it is possible to ensure the financial security of your current spouse whilst still protecting your children's inheritance.

With a standard Will, if you leave everything to your new partner your assets would become theirs. When they die those assets would then be passed to their beneficiaries, who may be their own children, thus depriving your children of any inheritance. With a "Life interest Will" it is possible to avoid this situation. The family home is a perfect example. You may wish to leave this to your children eventually, but still enable your current partner to live in it after you have died. It is possible to give your partner a life interest in the property, which means that after you die they can live in the property until they die (or remarry if you wish), at which point it passes to your beneficiaries. In this way you can protect both your partner and eventual beneficiaries.

What are executors?

An executor is someone you appoint in your Will to carry out the instructions contained in it. They can be a family member, friend, a firm of solicitors or anyone you choose. An executor can also be a beneficiary of your estate. Many people appoint their spouse as executor, although it is advisable to appoint more than one executor to avoid problems if your first appointed executor dies before you. If you have a substantial estate or one which is financially complex it may be advisable to appoint a firm of solicitors or someone who has the knowledge required to deal with your finances and tax liabilities in the correct way.

Where should I store my will?

The most important consideration is that your Will should be easily found when you die, to ensure your wishes are carried out. Someone needs to be made aware that you have made a Will and also where it is stored. Norrie Waite & Slater can store your Will in our secure storage facility at no cost. When you make a Will with us, we can keep the original in storage and give you copies to take home, if you wish.

Contact us arrange a consultation with one of our solicitors.