A will is a legal document which outlines a person’s wishes as to how their assets are to be distributed after they have died. Although often presented as a confusing and complex topic, will writing can be simple.
You can draft a will by yourself with the use of templates, or you can have one drafted for you by a solicitor. Legal advice can be a necessary part of drafting your will if your estate is not straightforward, this could include if you wanted to set up a trust or if you have overseas properties, but this is not always the case.
Writing a will mainly focuses on the content and meeting the required formalities for it to be legally binding and effective.
The content of a will must have several components to ensure it is functional. The first consideration to be made is who you want to pass your assets to (beneficiaries). Establishing who you want to benefit from your will can be a complicated and emotional task. Usually, people tend to pass on their assets to their spouse/civil partner, children, relatives, or friends. However, you can select any person or any legal entity (registered business or charity) to benefit from your will. This stage is all about determining who you want to benefit from your assets based on personal relationships, duties (e.g., to provide for your children) or charitable inclinations. Key considerations may be, who would benefit the most, do you have any financial dependants and so forth. If you are finding it difficult to determine who to name as a beneficiary, it may be helpful to look at what assets you have and who you wish to bequeath each. Bequeathing is the act of leaving someone something in your will. There are three main types of bequeathing which are, specific, pecuniary, residuary, and reversionary. The type of asset a beneficiary is provided with differs their title and priority in your will.
If you care for someone you may wish to also include details as to who you would want to look after them if you pass away. This is known as setting out a legal guardian. Lastly, a key part of a will is appointing an executor to carry out the wishes in your will. Whoever you choose must be named in your will, so they have the rights to manage your assets once you're gone.
Once you've decided on the content of your will, you must make sure that it follows the required formalities for it to be legally valid.
A will must follow several formalities to be legally binding as detailed under the Wills Act 1837.
To be valid, a will must be:
Your witnesses cannot benefit from your will or be connected to anyone else that benefits from your will to ensure that they are impartial, and their witnessing is valid.
Failing to complete a will means that your estate will be managed according to the intestacy rules (inheritance laws) and only a select number of relatives will benefit from your assets. This means that you will not get a say in who gets what and other people you care for will not have legal rights to your assets, for example your unmarried partner.
Can wills be edited?
Your will can be edited by you using a codicil. It is recommended to only use a codicil if you intend to edit or amend smaller parts of the will otherwise, they can produce confusion.
If you do not have many assets, is it still worth making a will?Yes, although wills traditionally focus on the distribution of assets such as property and money there may be sentimental objects that you wish to pass onto specific loved ones and writing a will is one way of ensuring this occurs.
It is also important to remember that not everything can be left in a will, for example if you jointly own a home with someone you cannot include your “half” in the will.
If you decide to execute a Codicil, SharedAffairs can assist you. We offer secure online storage for documents which are released to your chosen contacts once our authentication process is carried out. This means that your Codicil will be stored securely and released to your executor (or to your other chosen contact) so they can ensure it is used in conjunction with your will. SharedAffairs therefore removes the need to worry about physical storage and the safety of your most important documents.
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