Writing Your Will – Frequently Asked Question’s
Things to Consider Before Writing Your Will
Writing your Will is a daunting prospect for many people and one that often gets ‘put off’, as a result. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most important things you should address in life, particularly, once you get married, have children or start to accumulate assets of any value.
We’ve found that people often procrastinate over writing their Will because they don’t really understand, exactly, what’s involved or how to go about it.
With that in mind, on this page we'll talk about some of the things you need to consider that will help you get started.
Of course, your situation is unique to you and, if in any doubt, you should always seek professional advice.
Given that your Will is a legal document, it's important to understand some of the specific terminology and how it applies to you when writing your Will.
An Asset is anything owned by the Testator such as property, money or personal possessions.
A Beneficiary is a named person (or organisation) who benefits from a will, a trust or a life insurance policy.
To Bequeath something is to give that something to a person or organisation in a will.
A Bequest is something given to a person or organisation in a will. This could be personal possessions, an amount of money or part/all of the residue of an estate.
Your Estate encompasses everything a person owns at the date of their death (or the right to use land for a period of time?).
Executors are the people appointed by you, in your Will, to carry out your instructions.
A Guardian is a person appointed to look after the interests of a child under the age of 18 or who isn't capable of looking after their own affairs.
The Residue of an Estate is everything that remains after specific bequests (if any) have been made and after payment of all debts, taxes and expenses.
The person writing the Will is the Testator, which may well be you, if you're reading this with a view to preparing your own will.
A Trust is a financial arrangement under which property or money is held by named people or organisations on behalf of someone else.
A Trustee is a person or organisation who controls property held in a Trust and looks after it on behalf of someone else.
Executors are the people appointed by you, in your Will, to carry out your instructions and, as such, should be people that you trust, implicitly.
Any individual over the age of 18 can act as an Executor and you can also appoint a professional person or company, if you wish.
You can appoint up to four Executors but it is wise to appoint at least two.
Yes, an Executor can also be a beneficiary.
In fact, it's quite common for the Executors to be the husband/wife and/or children of the Testator.
This is something you should consider for two reasons;
- Depending on the size and complexity of your Estate, there is a lot of work and a lot of responsibility placed on the shoulders of your Executor(s). You need to make sure that the people you choose are happy to take on the role. You can find out more about the duties of an Executor here.
- You need to consider whether your Executors have the time, the skills and the desire to carry out your wishes, as per the instructions in your will.
Having considered these points, you may prefer to appoint a professional person or company to act on your behalf. However, you do need to be aware that there will be a charge for this, which can be substantial, depending on who you instruct as your Executor(s).
This would be a question for the professional or company you have in mind.
It's quite common for a solicitor or firm of solicitors to act as Executor. Whilst the charges for this service will vary from one company to another, fees are often related to a percentage of the value of the assets in the Estate and can, as a result, start to add up to a significant sum of money.
You need to make sure that you understand exactly how the cost of their services are calculated and what the total is likely to be, before you make the decision to instruct a solicitor.
There are also companies that offer this kind of service for a fixed fee. In fact, we offer such a service, here at Heritage will Writing and you can find out mere here.
In the event that you decide to appoint a professional person or company to act as your Executor, you do need to make provision for their charges in you Will, by adding a 'charging clause'.
It's always a good idea to appoint at least two executors, just in case one or more of them are unwilling or unable to take on the role for some reason.
You can also appoint one or more Reserve Executors who will step in should an appointed Executor be unwilling or unable to act on your behalf.
If you have children under the age of 18 or who lack the capacity to look after their own affairs, you need to decide who should be responsible for their welfare, after you've gone.
There is no specific requirement or recommendation.
How many Guardians you appoint will most likely be dictated by the people you choose to act as Guardians for your children. It may be an individual, a couple, or an organisation.
The most important thing is that your children's welfare is accounted for through your choice.
Yes, it's quite usual for an Executor to take on the role of Guardian, as well. They may also be a beneficiary or Trustee, as well.
In fact, it's quite common for the Executors to be the husband/wife and/or children of the Testator.
The appointment of Guardians allows you to decide who should be responsible for your children's welfare and there are a number of things you should give consideration to. For example;
- The age of the Guardians.
- The kind of relationship they have with your children.
- Their views regarding how your children should be educated.
- Whether they share the same or similar values to you.
And so on. After all, it's important that your children have respect for the people that you choose.
You can also appoint one or more Reserve Guardians who will step in should an appointed Guardian be unwilling or unable to take on the role of looking after your children.
Taking Care of Your Pets
If you have pets their welfare will be of great concern to you, so, you need to decide who should be responsible for their welfare, after you've gone.
If you want to make sure that your Executors know, exactly, what your wishes are and how they should deal with your pets after you've gone, it's important to include a clause in your Will.
It's always a good idea to make sure that the person or people you have in mind are happy to take over the care and welfare of your pets.
Assuming they are, you can write a clause in to your Will that reflects your wishes and ensures that your pet(s) end up where you want them to.
If you're worried about what will happen to your beloved pets after you pass away and don't have someone obviously identifiable who can take on your pets, you can safeguard their future with The RSPCA’s “Home for Life” service.
The RSPCA state: “With this service, you can rest assured that the RSPCA will be there for your loving animal companions who have given you so much, after you pass on."
A clause can be added to your will requesting that care of your pets is handed over to the RSPCA after your death. The reason we advise you to add the “Home for Life” clause to your will is to ensure your executors are fully aware of your wishes and that there's no confusion as to what should happen to your animals, should you pass on before them.
The RSPCA say: “Knowing how much they mean to you, we’ll do our best to look after your beloved pets, and do everything we can to find them loving new homes. All the animals in our care are given a health check, and for most domestic animals, this includes vaccinations, neutering and microchipping as necessary.”
The RSPCA “Home for Life” scheme offers more than just a re-homing service for pets after the death of the owner: it offers peace of mind too.
Trusts and Trustees
If you have any assets that are to be held in a Trust of any kind, you will need to create those Trusts and appoint Trustees.
Given that Trustees are the people that look after and control any assets placed in trust as a result of your Will, you do need to have trust in them.
You may wish to consider their integrity, how they manage their own assets and the relationship they have with the beneficiaries of the Trust.
You can also appoint a professional person or company as a Trustee. Just bear in mind that there's a cost to this and you will need to account for that cost.
It's a good idea to have more than one Trustee because this ensures that there are 'checks and measures' in place when it comes to the decisions made in managing any monies or assets held by the Trust.
A Trustee will hold assets for the benefit of someone else (or for a group of people). The Trustee will hold these assets and distribute them to the beneficiaries in line with your will/trust.
As an example, consider that you may wish to leave money to your children who are under the age of 18.
In these circumstances your Trustees would usually be expected to manage the money for the children and distribute any funds for them as required (i.e. pay for school fees) until they reach the age at which they take control over the funds themselves.
You get to choose when your children take control of the money for themselves. This can be any age between 18 and 25.
Your Funeral Arrangements
If you have any specific requests with regard to your funeral and the funeral arrangements, they can be included in your Will.
No, you don't.
You just need to be mindful that without a clause, your executors could arrange anything they choose.
If that really doesn't bother you, then you don't need a clause. However, it's probably better to simply state that you have no specific wishes regarding funeral arrangements. That way, there's no confusion for your Executors.
Anything you like.
Some of the more common things you may like to include are;
- Your preference over cremation or burial.
- Where you would like your funeral to take place.
- Where you would like to be buried.
- What you would like to have happen with your ashes.
- Any choice of music and any readings you would like to have at your funeral ceremony.
In fact, you can make whatever request you would like. Recording your wishes in your Will simply make them absolutely clear to your Executors.
Yes. It's a good idea to include a clause stating any particular medical donation, whether that be to leave your body for scientific research or to donate specific organs.
However, donating organs, for example, would be time critical and your Will may be read too late. Therefore, it's always a good idea to let close relatives know of your particular wishes, so that they can be carried out in a timely manner.
Carrying an Organ Donor Card is also advisable, if this is your wish.
If you have any specific requests with regard to leaving certain personal possessions or smaller amounts of money to individuals or organisations (charities, for example), these need to be included when writing your Will.
No. this isn't necessary.
However, if you have any specific possessions or amounts of money that you wish to bequeath to specific people or organisations, then you should make a detailed list of these things and include the appropriate clauses in your Will.
You just need to understand that, whatever you don't identify, specifically, in your estate (everything else not listed, whatever it may be), is dealt with through distribution of the Residue.
It's important when leaving gifts, that you give the full name of the recipient and a full description of the relevant gift or gifts. After all, your Executors (depending on who you appoint), may not be familiar with your individual possessions, so, the more detailed the information, the better.
In fact, you could also include photographs of items, to help clarify things.
No. Gifts and legacies can be of any value. There is no minimum or maximum. The important thing is that you ensure that the right people get the right possessions and gifts.
Yes, but you need to give the full name, address and registered number of that charity.
Normally, the legacy would lapse and then it becomes part of the residue of your estate, unless you give instructions to the contrary and name a reserve recipient.
The Residue of Your Estate
Who do you want the residue of your estate to go to?
The residue of your estate is everything left after any specific bequests (if any) and after payment of all debts, taxes and expenses.
No. There's no need to itemise the residue, you can simply decide what proportion each beneficiary is to receive, if you are naming more than one.
No. You can split the Residue in any way you want to. Here are a few examples of what you could choose to do;
- You can leave it all to one individual.
- You could name two beneficiaries and leave them 50% of your Estate each.
- You could split the Residue 60%/40% or any other split of your choosing.
- You can split the residue between as many people as you choose.
- You could leave the Residue to your spouse and then have that passed on to your children when they die. (You can choose the split between your children, as well. Whatever you want.)
Essentially, you can split the Residue in any way you want to.
No. You can leave the Residue to whoever you like.
It's quite normal for the residue to go to family but, where there is no immediate family, the Residue is often left to friends.
Of course, you can always include friends in the split of Residue, as we all as family. It's your choice.
You Must Ask This Question, Repeatedly, When Writing Your Will
In fact, if you're taking professional advice and you don't get asked this question, repeatedly when writing your Will (in relation to a variety of different situations), then you're talking to the wrong person!
That's a strong statement, I know, but it's absolutely true because, if you're not being asked this question, you're not getting the best advice and you're not able to prepare your Will, adequately, for all eventualities.
What would happen if?
This is a question you should ask often. For example;
- What would happen if a beneficiary were to pass away before you?
- What would happen if you got divorced?
- What would happen if you re-married?
- What would happen if your Executor/Guardian/Trustee were unable to take on their role due to poor health?
And so on.
The information provided here is intended to address the types of questions that people are often concerned about.
To see an outline of what we do and how we deliver services for our clients, please visit the Our Services page. You will find information on the key aspects of creating your will including:
Personal Reviews, Will Writing, Estate Planning & Tax Management, Lasting Power of Attorney, Discretionary Trusts, Special Provisions & Assurance (disabled beneficiaries), Severance of Tenancy, Secure Document Storage.
If you have a specific question, want more detailed information or want your will professionally prepared, then please just get in touch.