A Guide To Will Writing
What do you need to tell us?
In order to advise you fully we will require details of everything you own, including ‘real’ property eg houses, land and “personal” property eg cars, personal valuables, stocks and shares, bank accounts, life insurance policies, details of any businesses you own either outright or by a shareholding and pension plans.
Nowadays it is also vitally important that you consider your digital inheritance. This includes assets you may have stored online. For example photos, videos, bank accounts, passwords, music, emails or anything online that is of value to you or your loved ones.
We suggest that you make a list to ensure that nothing gets overlooked and forgotten. Below we have provided a list of considerations for structuring the content of your will.
You have decided to make a will – so who gets what?
So, who do you want to leave your possessions to? How do you want to divide your property between your family, friends and charities? Are there any conditions you want to apply to these gifts?
Again, make a list of any possessions that you think you would like to make specific gifts of and to whom you would like these gifts to go.
Family and other beneficiaries
We will need details of your family and marital status. Are you divorced, remarried, in a civil partnership or living with a partner? Do you have any children or any other dependants? If you have anyone who depends on you financially then they can ask a court to review your Will if they feel you have not provided properly for them. You will need to provide us with any relevant details in order that we can fully advise you on the legal implications.
If you have children that may still be under 18 when you die, you need to name someone as their legal guardian. As a parent you no doubt have specific thoughts about how you would like your children to be brought up and you can appoint appropriate guardians to care for and raise your children should you unfortunately die prematurely. You should however check with your chosen guardians that they would be happy to take on the responsibility of guardianship in the event of your death
Do you have any particular requirements for your funeral? Do you want to be buried or cremated? If cremated, do you have any special requests as to where your ashes should be scattered?
Executors and Trustees
You need to choose the people who you want to appoint as Executors and Trustees of your Will. These are the people who will deal with the administration of your estate after your death in accordance with the requirements you have stated in your Will. You can choose family or friends but ideally someone who is familiar with financial matters. You will need to speak with your chosen Executors to confirm that they are happy to take on this duty. It is usually best ask someone younger than you unless you yourself are particularly young and the Executors are not too old, otherwise there is the risk that the Executors could predecease you. You may also wish to consider appointing a professional as an Executor, either on their own, or jointly with family and friends. If that’s the case then Newnham & Jordan can assist with professional executorship.
Approving and Signing Your Will
Once your Will has been prepared you will need to check that it accurately reflects your instructions. Once we have prepared your Will we will contact you to arrange for you to review the contents and confirm that it reflects your wishes and instructions. You will then need to sign the Will as it is not effective until it has been correctly signed and witnessed.
There are several rules affecting the signature process which, if not followed correctly, will make your Will invalid and therefore fail for the simple reason that the Will was not correctly signed and witnessed. For example, witnesses and their spouses or civil partners cannot benefit under the Will. For this reason Newnham & Jordan will ensure that the Will is signed by you correctly by attending to this personally.
Where to keep the Will
It is important to keep your Will in a safe place (ideally not at home) and ensure that you tell your Executors where it is. If you would like Newnham & Jordan to arrange safe storage then please discuss this with us.
Keeping your Will up to date
You should review your Will regularly and best practice would suggest at least every four years. Additionally you should review your Will after any major life change such as getting separated, married, divorced or having a child. It is always best to deal with major changes by getting a new Will professionally prepared.
A living will
This can help you influence your medical treatment at the end of your life and can set out the circumstances under which you would not want to receive life-prolonging medical treatment in the event that you were seriously ill and incapable of making your own decisions. It can save loved ones from having to make those difficult decisions for you. Also important is a wish list to guide your family and doctors on things such as where you would like to be looked after if you are dying and whether you want to be told (and would want others to be told) if you are close to death.
Lasting Power of Attorney – Personal Welfare
Alternatively you could opt to prepare a Personal Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney appointing a chosen Attorney to make decisions for you regarding your medical care and treatment at the end of your life. You should appoint someone who you know and trust and who knows what you would want in a given situation where your medical treatment was concerned.
Lasting Power of Attorney – Property and Affairs
So, you’ve made a Will but what happens if you have a serious illness or accident and are unable to look after your finances or other property or business interests? Unfortunately your Executors will be unable to do anything as their powers only come into effect after your death and are in accordance with the terms of your Will.
You should therefore consider whether you require a Lasting Power of Attorney for your Property and Affairs. By doing so you can appoint a chosen Attorney to take care of your property and finances should you be incapacitated temporarily or permanently due to sickness or accident causing physical and/or mental incapacity.
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