Writing a Will

Passing away, forever sleep - however we refer to it, will happen - we are all going to die. And although the thought is a morbid one, once we have our own families we need to approach the subject of our death in a practical manner. Writing a Will may be something you'd rather put off until another day but it's essential to do it, if you want to take the pressure off the loved ones that you'll leave behind. Like it or not, writing a Will is one of the most important personal decisions that you will make in your lifetime.

Where do I start?

A Will is a legal document, so, for advice, a good place to start would be to consult a solicitor. The Law Society can help you find a solicitor.

What can I include in my Will?

You can include details of your preferred funeral arrangements, for example, you may wish to be buried or cremated. You may choose legal guardians to care for your children; you will need to consider who your beneficiaries will be; what they will inherit. This can involve dividing your estate and leaving specific sentimental items or property to those you love.

Can my children inherit?

Children under the age of 18 cannot inherit, so their funds will be held in trust until they come of age. You can choose what age you think would be best for them to receive their inheritance. Many people think that 18 is too young to inherit a large sum of money, so within their Wills, they specify an age of 21 or older.

Do I need to nominate guardians in my Will?

It isn't compulsory but a Will is a good place to appoint a guardian. If you don't stipulate who you would like to act as guardians of your children in the event of your death, the decision will be left to the courts. Especially if their children are young, most people choose members of their family. It's preferable to limit the number of guardians to two people who, in your opinion, would provide the most stable & loving environment to your children.

What are the Guardian's duties?

Their duties are the same as those of a parent. The guardians would make the decisions they think best and be responsible for the welfare of your child. Who should control my child's trust fund? In most instances, the child's trust fund is not managed by the guardians. It is normally better for financial matters to be controlled by someone else, often the trustees of your estate. In your Will, your children - rather than the Guardians - should be nominated as beneficiaries. This way the inheritance will be held in a trust solely for the benefit of the children.

Who should be my Executors?

Executors deal with your estate in the event of your death, so it is worth considering your most level-headed relative or friend to act in this role. In addition to a friend or family member, most people appoint a solicitor to share the burden of the work, as a professional can supply additional support.

Solicitor's fees can be high.Can I make my own will? 

DIY Wills are more open to misinterpretation. You may unknowingly leave out important information, or inadvertently write details that could be open to a challenge. It could involve substantial legal fees to be put right. Your loved ones may have to sort and deal with the problem causing additional, avoidable grief.

Will Inheritance Tax apply to me?

If your Estate is valued at more than £275,000, it will be subject to Inheritance Tax. The first £275,000 of your estate will be tax-free. After that it will be taxed at 40%. Keep your Will updated: If your circumstances have changed since you initially wrote your Will, for example, you may have divorced or an executor may have died, you will need to update your Will. This can be done either using a codicil or by re-making you're Will.

Definitions of legal words you see when writing your Will:-

Beneficiary: Someone who will benefit from your Will.

Codicil: An alteration to your Will after the initial writing.

Estate:This is the value of everything you own at the time of your death, including all assets and debts. Executors: Named people whom you have chosen to carry out the wishes made in your Will.

Legacy: A gift made in your Will. Specific bequest: A specific named item left as a gift in your Will, e.g. a piece of jewellery.

Testator: This is you - the person who made the Will.

The Law Society: Call them on 020 7242 1222 or go to their website www.solicitors-online.com for more details of solicitors local to you.

Disclaimer - This article offers a general view on writing a Will as at January 2006. Primary Times is not responsible for the legal wording in this feature. Please contact your Solicitor for specific information on writing Wills.

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