Frequently asked questions about wills
1. How long will my Will be valid?
Once you have had your Will written, signed it, and had it witnessed, it is valid until revoked. There are three ways to revoke your Will:
- Destroy all copies of it.
- Marrying or re-marrying automatically revokes a previous Will unless that Will expressly states that it is made in contemplation of forthcoming marriage.
- Make a new Will which revokes your old Will.
2. When should I make a new Will?
If any of the following occur, you should make a new Will :
- Changes in the Family. If there is an addition to or a death in your family, you may want to consider revising your Will.
- If you get married. Marrying or re-marrying automatically revokes a Will.
- If you enter into a civil partnership
- If you get divorced. Getting divorced does not revoke a Will but all clauses naming your former spouse will cease to be valid and if he or she is named as an Executor then upon divorce he or she is not allowed to act or obtain probate of your Will.
- Separation. If you separate from your spouse, the effect is not the same as divorce but you may still want to revise your Will to take account of your changed circumstances.
- Changes in your Financial Circumstances. If your financial circumstances change for the better, you may want to add new beneficiaries or bring the gifts or sums of money more up to date. Conversely, if your financial circumstances have taken a turn for the worse your estate may not be sufficient enough to provide for all the gifts you have left.
- Changes in taxation. If your estate is large enough to attract Inheritance tax, new taxes, tax reliefs, or new rates then you may need to think about revising it.
- Going to live abroad. You should normally make a Will in the country where you live to simplify the administration of your estate
- If it is burnt, torn or otherwise destroyed.
3. When can my children inherit?
Children cannot inherit until they reach the age of 18; below this age, the funds are held in Trust. If you think 18 is too young for your children to inherit a large sum of money, within a Will, you can specify that they not receive the capital sum until a later age. They will, however, be entitled to receive any income from the trust fund as soon as they reach 18. Apart from this, the Trustees decide what income and/or capital can be used for the benefit of the children e.g. school fees.
4. Can I write my own Will?
Yes, you can. But A Will is a critically important legal document, with strict laws in relation to its formation and execution. Non compliance with these laws on making and executing wills could have the effect of making your Will null and void. If you die you will not be around to explain what you intended and a Court will have to interpret your Will.
Anyone who thinks she or he would be better off without the self-prepared Will can contest it. If it does not meet some very stringent tests it can and will be disregarded. The costs of litigation can -- and too often do -- wipe out an estate.
You should consider:
- A Will that is not clear under the law is open to challenge and your wishes may be overruled.
- A Will not made under the correct procedures can be rendered invalid.
- When making your own Will you may overlook some possibilities and unforeseen changes in circumstances.
5. Can an executor be a beneficiary?
Yes. Often the main beneficiary is one of the executors.
6. Do I need a solicitor to act as executor?
No, but it is wise to appoint one alongside a friend or relative. A person will often make a close family Member an Executor since such a person is likely to have a very detailed and intimate knowledge of the Deceased's affairs. Many people also appoint their Solicitor as a second Executor since the Solicitor will also often have information on the Deceased's affairs and will be able to render good advice to the other Executor and assist in the processing of the Grant of Probate.
7. Will I have to pay Inheritance Tax?
The first £325,000 of your estate will pass free of IHT, this is known as the Nil Rate Band personal tax allowance. The remainder will be taxed at 40%
8. What if I die without making a Will?
Many people think that their Estate will go to their partner when they die. This is rarely the case. For Example, if you are living with but not married to your partner, they will receive nothing if you die without making a Will.
Even if you are married to your partner, he or she may not receive the entire Estate and worryingly, may not receive enough to maintain their current lifestyle.
When you die intestate (i.e. without having made a Will) then your loved ones may not even get to control the administration of your estate - the management of your estate may instead be placed in the hands of administrators appointed by the court.
9. Do married couples need two Wills?
If you are married or have entered into a civil partnership, both you and your spouse should each make a Will.
10. Who should make a Will?
Every adult can and should make a Will.
Minors (under 18) cannot make a Will.
11. Where should I keep my Will?
A lost or damaged Will may render a Will null and void and your Will should therefore be kept in a fireproof storage unit for safekeeping. All our clients Wills are kept in a fireproof safe free of charge, unlike some banks and similar institutions, who may charge to do so.