As family solicitors, we’re used to helping people during some of the most stressful moments of their life. Whether they’re seeking a divorce, trying to adopt a child or dealing with the social services, our clients know that they can rely on us to provide clear and accessible advice, as well as a sympathetic approach which takes the emotional impact of dealing with the law into account. That’s why so many people come to us for help when they need the services of will solicitors.
The loss of a loved one is something that the majority of people will have to deal with at some point during their life. The emotional stress and difficulty of the grieving process are made much worse if the person in question didn’t take the time to write a will before they died. Issues such as dividing an estate, dealing with a family home and handling the complexities which emerge when people have had children with more than one spouse can become extremely difficult to get to grips with without the requisite legal expertise, particularly during such a difficult time. That’s why, as will solicitors, we recommend that people come to us to put together a will that will help to make things just a little easier for the friends and family they leave behind.
If you come to see our will solicitors for advice on writing a will we’ll explain exactly what a will has to contain, how to make sure that it is completely valid and even why you need to write a will at all.
If you haven’t written a will at the time of your death then you will officially have died ‘intestate’. This means that the estate you leave behind will be divided in line with strict guidelines, rather than being left to the family and friends you might have chosen. The simplest scenario will see any spouse or civil partner inheriting the whole of your estate. If you have children as well as a spouse or civil partner then the state will be divided as follows:
- £250,000 to your spouse or civil partner, in addition to 50% of anything over that amount
- All personal possessions to your spouse or civil partner
- Any children will inherit the amount left after the initial £250,000
- In the absence of a surviving spouse or partner, the estate will be shared equally between any children
- If there is neither a spouse nor children, the estate will be divided between siblings, parents, nephews and nieces etc.
Not writing a will could even impact on the amount of Inheritance Tax which is owed by your estate and will definitely slow down the process of the people you’ve left behind being able to access the assets and items you wish to leave them. You may have specific ideas on which family members you wish your estate to be left to when you die and writing a will with the advice of one of our will solicitors will make absolutely certain that your instructions are followed.
The first thing that our will solicitors will help you to do is draw up a list of your assets and their value. Since the value of any assets – particularly property – can change over time, this is a process which should be carried out on a regular basis. The assets which need to be valued when writing a will include the following:
- Insurance policies
- Stocks, shares and any other investments
- Business interests
- Furniture/household contents
- Personal belongings
Once you’ve calculated the value of your estate, by subtracting any debts from the assets outlined above, you’ll have to decide how you wish to divide it upon your death. You might want to leave set percentages to specific family members, a majority to a spouse or partner and individual items to other family members, or you could choose to leave some or all to a charity. If you do make a bequest to a charity, it’s important to include the full name and address of the charity in your will, alongside the registered charity number.
As well as choosing how to divide your assets, you’ll have to name someone to execute your will. This means that they will have the responsibility to ensure your wishes are met, which could take several months and involve selling property and dealing with issues such as Inheritance Tax, Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax. You may opt to name a spouse or a child – over the age of 18 – as an executor and many people opt to name a relative working in partnership with a legal professional such as one of our will solicitors.
In order to be legally valid a will has to be set out in writing and signed by you and two witnesses. If you have written a will previously, it should be destroyed and the new will should state that all previous wills are revoked. It is also important that the witnesses who sign the will – and their spouses and partners – are not named as beneficiaries in the will. If they are, then the will is still valid, but these people will not be entitled to whatever you wanted to leave to them.
Any mistakes when writing a will could lead to lengthy and stressful delays for your family and in the worst case scenario, long and expensive legal arguments. Taking the advice of a will solicitor will make sure that this doesn’t happen and prevent at least one small part of the stress and upset involved in losing someone close to you.
If you’d like to speak to a will solicitor or have any questions about writing a will, please call us on 0161 429 7251 or email us at [email protected]. We’ve recently passed our Cyber Essential accreditation, something which demonstrates our forward thinking attitude and determination to remain ahead of the competition. We’ll provide a 20 minute appraisal free of charge, and our first appointment is offered for a fixed fee, meaning 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.