Having taken the decision to make your Will, possibly for the first time, there are a few points you should consider before committing yourself to an appointment with a professional Will Writer. The Consultant’s job is to take your instructions and translate these into your Will, creating a document which accurately reflects your wishes. The Will needs to be understood by your Executors and most importantly, the Probate Court, to ensure that it is approved quickly to minimise any problems which may occur causing delays and possible hardship to your loved ones.
There are some important questions which you need to consider before meeting with your Consultant. By having many of the answers available it will leave more time to discuss the other
important issues which may arise during the consultation.
The appointment of executors and trustees
Executors will administer your estate, paying any debts and taxes, before distributing your estate to the beneficiaries. Trustees will manage any trust created by your Will, the most common being managing assets for minor children (under the age of 18 years). Executors and Trustees are commonly, but not necessarily, the same people.
You do not need to appoint professionals to act as an Executor or Trustee of your estate, but there are situations where professionals are advisable. Professional Executors will charge your estate to act, and in many cases, for duties that a friend or family member could have done.
If you have a small simple estate, it may be better to appoint a member of your family, a prime beneficiary or close friends to act, remember;
An Executor can also be a Beneficiary !
If you do need to appoint a professional Executor, or feel you want to so your loved ones have one less thing to worry about, your consultant will be able to advise you on the best one in your
circumstances and give a guide to the fees they are likely to charge.
Appointment of guardians
Only if you have minor children (under the age of 18 years), or plan to have children in the near future, will you need to appoint guardians.
It may be helpful to make at least one guardian a joint Trustee, as money from the estate can be used to help towards to the cost of bringing up your children. As guardians, they will always be in the best position to know exactly when money is required. If you have disabled children who are likely to require specialist care at home or in the care of the Local Authority, a Trust will be required to ensure that adequate funds are available for their future. Your Consultant will be able to advise on this.
It is helpful to have prepared a rough idea on how much your estate (or joint estate if you are a couple) is worth. This includes any debts, life policies, death in service and pensions. Having this
available at your meeting will enable your Consultant to give advice on any potential Inheritance Tax that may be due.
Specific Gifts: decide now if you wish to leave any other members of your family or friends a specific gift, for example jewellery. Where you have a long list of gifts that you would like
to make, these can be made via a letter separate to the Will, which you can update yourself whenever you wish.
Money Gifts: thought should be given to anyone who you may wish to leave a small money gift to. This could be grandchildren, friends or even a favourite charity. If you are considering a gift to
charity, please try and have their registered charity number available.
Residuary Legacy: this covers all the remainder of your estate after any gifts have been made and the estates debts and taxes have been paid. In the case of a couple, this will usually pass to each
other and then on to any children in equal shares upon the death of the survivor.
Long stop: also described as the ‘total calamity or disaster’ clause, so called because this clause would only take effect if all your chosen beneficiaries die before you. These are usually
remoter family members, friends or charity.
Addresses and Names: it is advisable to have the full names and addresses of all the people you wish to include in the Will to hand at your meeting.
Funeral Wishes: for those that wish to leave specific instructions, such as cremation or burial and whether flowers or donations are to be given, these can be included in the Will. It must be pointed out that whatever your request, these are only a wish and not binding on your executors to carry them out if they are unable to. In many cases, the Will may not be seen until after the funeral has taken place and so it is advisable that your more detailed funeral wishes are made known to your loved ones.
And finally: whatever you have put in your Will – and it is personal only to you – but you should make sure that your Executors can find it when the time comes. Tell them where you
keep your Will and how they can get access to it. Professional storage companies are available, and your consultant will be able to provide more information.