How To Write A Will

As a law firm which specialises in dealing with family law we’re used to providing expert legal advice in a calm and supportive manner. Because we handle issues such as divorce, adoption and interactions with social services we’re used to dealing with people during periods of great stress. We’re also aware of the fact that, for most people, dealing with legal issues is a highly unusual occurrence, so we work in a supportive manner which stops the processes we deal with being quite so daunting. 

Some of our work revolves around the issue of wills and probate – quite literally matters of life and death – and that’s why we realise the importance of explaining very clearly exactly how to write a will. The first question to answer when dealing with how to write a will is precisely why you should write a will. Many people put off doing so for reasons which include a fear of facing up to their own mortality and a concern about how difficult the process might be. Although taking the option of writing a will yourself might seem tempting, the fact of the matter is that it takes a combination of legal expertise and legal experience to understand how to write a will so that your estate is divided exactly in accordance with your wishes and matters like Inheritance Tax (IHT) are dealt with as efficiently as possible. For many people, the seemingly simple matter of leaving behind some property and the money in their bank account is complicated by issues such as a second or third marriage and the children which resulted from those marriages. For others, there might be business interests to take into account or more complex financial matters such as shares, insurance policies and trust funds. Knowing how to write a will in a way that guarantees all of the relevant issues will be dealt with correctly is something that requires a thorough understanding of the relevant laws, and that’s what our experts bring to the table. 

The other reason why everyone with a concern for their loved ones – particularly spouses, civil partners and children under 18 – should write a will is that failing to do so means that you die ‘intestate.’ This means that rather than being divided in accordance to your wishes your estate will be settled along the lines of very strict legal rules which could, amongst other things, have a big impact on the amount of IHT your loved ones have to pay. The final aspect of how to write a will that might make people hesitate before taking legal advice is a concern with regard to the cost and fear that legal fees could spiral out of control, but we provide reassurance in that regard with our fixed fee will writing service.      

The first issue to deal with when learning how to write a will is the division of your assets. You can choose to leave particular assets – ranging from major items such as property to items of jewellery or things which have mainly sentimental value – to specific individuals or organisations, or you can opt to leave what is referred to as the ‘residue’ of your estate to an individual. An arrangement of this kind might involve, for example, leaving £25,000 from a particular bank account to be shared equally between two named individuals and the residual amount – anything above £25,000 – to be given to a third named individual. More usually, a residual legacy will involve leaving everything that is left after specific bequests, tax payments including IHT and other debts have been paid, to a specific individual. 

The issue of leaving a property in a will can be complicated by issues of ownership. If you own the home in your own name then you have the right to leave it to anyone you name in your will, whereas if you are one half of a joint tenancy then 50% of the property automatically passes to the other tenant. In some cases you might have what is known as a ‘tenancy in common’, which means that you can leave your 50% of the property to another individual who will, after the will has been enacted, become a tenant in common. One aspect which should be borne in mind when wondering how to write a will is that a spouse or civil partner won’t have to pay IHT on the value of assets left to them, while IHT, in general, is often reduced by leaving property to a direct descendant like a child or grandchild. 

Other issues which our experts in how to write a will are well versed in dealing with include the number of witnesses needed, when they need to sign the will, and whether a witness can also be a beneficiary. The answer to this last question is no, and asking a beneficiary such as a spouse to sign the will as a witness would result in them losing the right to their inheritance. You will also have to name an executor – the person with the responsibility of handling probate – and be prepared to review the will on a regular basis and make any changes needed to reflect changes in your circumstances. Any changes have to be made in the form of a codicil. This is a separate document that supplements the will and has to be signed and witnessed in the same way as the original will, although if the changes in question are major then it is generally wisest to scrap the original will and create a new one. 

Issues such as this underline just how complex how to write a will actually is. Any mistakes you make, however small, have the potential to cause problems that might leave your loved ones stranded for months or even years on end without the benefit of the estate you wished to leave to them. Even once things have been resolved, the problems caused by these mistakes could lead to a steep rise in probate fees and IHT.  If you want to find out more about how to write a will please call us on 0161 429 7251 or email us at [email protected].co.uk. We’ve recently passed our Cyber Essential accreditation, something which demonstrates our forward-thinking attitude and determination to remain ahead of the competition. The first 20-minute appraisal is provided free of charge, and we’ll give you the first appointment for a fixed fee, so you don’t have to worry about how much our advice is going to cost. If you want to explore our wider charging system then please take a look here.

how to write a will

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April 29, 2021

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