What Decisions You Need to Make Before Writing a Will
A Will is a set of instructions to be implemented after your death. It is a document which outlines your wishes – and it is legally binding, as long as it has been drawn up properly. So before putting pen to paper, you need to decide what these wishes actually are. This includes:
- Who you want to inherit your estate and in what proportion
- Whether you want to set up any trusts
- Whether you want to make any gifts to charity
- Who your executors are going to be
- Who to name as your child’s/children’s legal guardians
- Whether you have any specific funeral wishes
- What you want to happen to your pet(s)
- What to do with your digital assets
Who will inherit your estate
The main purpose of a Will is to determine who should inherit your assets after your death. Otherwise, your estate is distributed according to the intestacy laws, which might not be what you want.
The people who inherit your assets are called your beneficiaries. You will need their names, dates of birth and addresses. You should also name ‘back-up’ beneficiaries. This is a contingency plan, should an original beneficiary die before you.
You need to decide exactly who you want to inherit from your estate and how – whether it’s a specific gift, a share of the estate or a particular asset. You need to be very precise with the wording of your Will, or there may be some confusion as to what your wishes actually are.
You might start by deciding your specific legacies. These are specific gifts you want to make. For example, you might want your granddaughter to inherit your wedding ring. Or you might want to make a gift to your friend Susan of £2,000. Or you might want your son to inherit one property and your daughter to inherit another.
Once you have made these specific legacies (if any), you should decide how you want your residuary estate to be distributed. This is everything that is left over once your debts have been settled, inheritance tax paid and specific legacies fulfilled. Some people don’t make any specific legacies, so their wishes only relate to their residuary estate.
When bequeathing money, you should stipulate whether it is a specific legacy or whether it should be paid from the residue. You must consider this very carefully. If you make a specific legacy, then your residuary beneficiaries might not have much left to inherit, especially once your debts and inheritance tax have been paid.
Whether you want to set up any trusts
You might not want your beneficiaries to receive their inheritance immediately after your death. Or, it might not be appropriate for them to handle it at all. This might be because your beneficiaries are minors, lack mental capacity, or are battling with addiction.
Alternatively, you might also want your partner to remain living in the family home after your death, but want your children to ultimately receive it as part of their inheritance.
Issues can also arise if a beneficiary is facing relationship difficulties and you don’t want them to lose their inheritance during divorce proceedings.
These are all scenarios where you might want to consider setting up a trust in your Will. Some people also use trusts as tax planning tools, and to reduce care home fees.
A trust is when assets are reserved for named beneficiaries but are managed by a trustee. This can be a person or organisation. You write instructions for the trustee to follow. These determine how and when the beneficiaries should receive their inheritance (if at all). This might be when they reach a certain age, when your partner dies or when they regain their health.
There are lots of different types of trusts. Each is suited to a particular situation.
Whether you want to make any gifts to charity
If you like, you can name a charity as a beneficiary in your Will. These gifts are exempt from Inheritance Tax.
Who your executors are going to be
Another important decision is who are your executors are going to be. Your executors are the people responsible for administering your estate after your death. Being an executor can be a lot of work, especially if the estate is complex or high in value. Because of this, you should always ask your preferred executors whether they are willing to take on the role, before you actually write your Will.
You can have up to four executors. Like beneficiaries, you can name reserves, just in case your original executor pre-deceases you. People often choose their spouse, children, relatives or friends. You can also ask a professional. You will need the names, dates of birth and addresses of your executors when writing your Will.
Who to name as your child’s legal guardian
If you have children who are under the age of 18, you can name legal guardians for them in your Will. These people will take on the care and upbringing of your children, should you and the other parent die before your children reach adulthood. Being named a legal guardian is obviously a huge responsibility, so you should get permission from your preferred legal guardians before writing your Will.
Whether you have any funeral wishes
Some people have specific instructions for their funeral, such as whether they want to be buried or cremated. A Will solicitor will ask if you want to include these wishes in your Will. If not, you can always leave it to your family decide.
What you want to happen to your pet(s)
If you have any pets then you should decide what you want to happen to them after your death. You might want a specific friend or family member to take care of them. You can outline these wishes in your Will. Again, it is wise to check that your friend or family member is willing to accept this responsibility before writing your Will.
What to do with your digital assets and accounts
These days lots of people also own digital assets. If so, you can name beneficiaries for your digital assets, just like you would with tangible assets such as property.
You can also leave instructions as to what you would like to happen to your online accounts, including your social media accounts. For example, you might ask a partner or friend to delete them or manage them on your behalf.
Will solicitors Sunderland
If you would like help making a Will, call our Sunderland solicitors on 0191 567 7244 and we’ll be happy to help you. If you would rather contact us online, email us at email@example.com and one of our team will be in contact with you shortly.