A Will is a written document made by a person before their death, which is intended to reflect their wishes as to who they wish to inherit their estate on their death.
A testator is a male who makes a Will. A testatrix is a female who makes a Will.
A beneficiary (beneficiaries - plural) is the term used to refer to the individual or individuals who are to receive a legacy or benefit from a Will.
If a person hasn’t made a Will during their lifetime, it can be said that they have died intestate. Similarly, if a person has made a Will and that Will is said to be invalid when they die, then that person is also said to have died intestate. If you die without making a valid Will then your estate will be subject to intestacy rules. As a consequence, a person who you will have wanted to inherit from your estate on your death may not be the person who actually inherits under the rules of intestacy.
Executors are individuals that are appointed within your Will to deal with all aspects of your estate after you’ve passed away. Executors will ensure that all your assets are accounted for and if you are owed money they will request that your estate gets this money and forms part of your estate after you have died. Additionally, they will ensure that if you have any debts that these are paid off from your estate. When all the money has been accounted for and paid into your estate and any debts and funeral expenses have been paid, the estate will then be distributed in accordance with your Will.
If you die leaving children then, if there is no other person living who has parental responsibility, a guardian is appointed to look after them. You can specify a guardian in your Will.
You don’t have to leave anything for your children. However, if young children or any other person or persons rely on you for their care or financial situation, then it is possible for them or their representative to make a claim against your estate for Reasonable Financial Provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
There are three types of gifts that can be bequeathed within a Will. These can be specific gifts such as a teapot, watch or painting, for example, which has sentimental value. There can be gifts of money that are for specific amounts (known as pecuniary gifts). Finally, there are what are deemed to be residuary gifts that consist of everything that remains in the estate after all debts, funeral expenses, costs, fees etc. have been paid out of your estate. What happens if, during my lifetime, I give something I have bequeathed to someone else or there is no money left in my estate? If you have given a gift away that is in your Will during your lifetime then that gift will not be available and the gift will fail in your Will. If you have no money left in your estate then all gifts will fail.
Executors appointed by you in your Will are usually appointed as Trustees as well. Trustees are given the task of holding assets in trust for young children who are beneficiaries of the Will until such time as they have reached the age of majority, or the age stipulated that they are due to benefit from the estate.
If you want to change your Will then you can make a codicil to your Will, which can be used to amend your previous Will. In some instances it is better to prepare a new Will instead of making a codicil as many times within a couple of years of the executed Will there will have been changes of address of beneficiaries or additional family members that the testator will wish to benefit from their estate.
The Government is currently carrying out a public consultation on modernising Will writing law and inviting opinions and contributions from the public. You can find out how to contribute to this in our blog Want To Help Modernise Will Writing Law? (https://activewills.com/blog/help-modernise-will-writing-law)
The rules are the same for Civil Partners as they are for married spouses in England and Wales. The best way to ensure your civil partner inherits everything you want them to (and not just what the law dictates they have a right to), you need to write a Will. You can find out more in our blog Inheritance, Civil Partnerships and Living Together. (https://activewills.com/blog/civil-partnerships-mirror-wills)
Yes. Our ActiveWills online template, designed in conjunction with SRA regulated solicitors working for a CLC registered organisation overcomes all risks though. Find out more in our blog The Danger of DIY Wills. (https://activewills.com/blog/danger-diy-wills)
By writing a Letter of Intent (aka a Letter of Wishes). A Letter of Wishes is a document that accompanies your Will. It is not legally binding but can guide your executors and trustees to ensure your personal wishes are carried out. It is the best way to discretely provide explanations as to why you have excluded someone from your Will, if you think that it may be a controversial decision or challenged later. Of course, you can always state why you have excluded someone in your Will, but doing so means anyone can read this once the Will is processed through probate. In our experience, there are very few people who wish to punish family members they’ve chosen to exclude by placing the reason for their decision in the public domain. Find out more in our blog Lessons Learnt from Recent Charity Wills Judgement (https://activewills.com/blog/lessons-learn-recent-charity-wills-judgment)
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. We have shared 3 questions to help guide your decision though in our blog. Is It A Good Idea To Leave More To My Less Well-Off Children? (https://activewills.com/blog/leave-more-to-less-well-of-children)
Planning for partners to inherit you ISAs is a tax efficient thing to do. However, some banks and building societies pay less interest on ISA cash inherited by bereaved spouses than on normal ISA savings. You can find out more in our blog 7 Things to Know About Inherited ISAs. (https://activewills.com/blog/7-things-about-inherited-isas)
The current threshold for IHT is £325,000. You have to pay 40% tax on anything above this amount.
Some solicitors are advising against Mirror Wills because by their nature you leave everything to a partner and in doing so you are trusting your estate to them with the potential that during their lifetime it may be frittered away, given to people you would not have chosen, used up for care fees or passed on to a new spouse.
We detail when a Mirror Will might not be the best choice in our blog Mirror Mirror on the Wall. (https://activewills.com/blog/mirror-wills-married-couples)
You can protect your loved ones from challenges to your Will by making sure you follow our precise instructions re getting your Will witnessed in our online Will writing template. You can also write a Letter of Intent (aka Letter of Wishes), as explained more in our blog Lessons Learnt from Recent Charity Wills Judgement. (https://activewills.com/blog/lessons-learn-recent-charity-wills-judgment)
We explain Will storage choices and explain how to let those who need to know, know where your Will is stored in our blog. How Will My Family Know Where My Will is When I Die? (https://activewills.com/blog/how-will-family-know-where-will-is-when-die)
Writing a Will online is easy and there is no easier way to review, revise and reprint your Will as your life circumstances change. We share more about the benefits of online Will writing in our blog 5 Reasons to Buy Your Will Online. (https://activewills.com/blog/5-reasons-buy-your-will-online)
As time goes by, your life situation changes. A Will that serves you when you are single, will no longer protect your best interests when you become part of a committed relationship, get married (divorced or remarried), have children (adopt or gain step-children or step-grandchildren), buy properties or own businesses. We recommend reviewing your estate plan every two years and whenever you experience one of these life changes.
Probate is the process of sorting out someone’s estate, their property, money and possessions, after they have died.
Dying intestate means dying without a Will. When you die without a Will the courts of law decide who inherits your estate using archaic intestacy rules. Dying intestate delays the sharing of your estate. If there is an Inheritance Tax liability, or any debts to pay, such as your mortgage or other loans, then the courts will hold your estate until all is paid.
We have designed an online quiz to reveal who would inherit your estate, according to the intestacy rules, if you die without a Will. You can take the quiz here (https://activewills.com/info/what-happens-if-i-die-without-a-will). It will not include unmarried partners, stepchildren, certain family members or friends.
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