Do I need a solicitor to make a Will?Smart Will
Last Will and Testament – overview
Making a Will is something many people put off but it is one of the most important things we can do to help our families after we are gone.
A Last Will and Testament is a method of making sure that your wishes are known and that your dependents are taken care of.
What exactly is a Last Will and Testament?
Despite the slightly archaic sounding title a Will is something that has real validity and relevance in the 21st century.
A Will is simply a document that sets out your wishes for how you would like things to happen after you pass on.
It will include the obvious things like who gets what assets but can also be used as a method of setting out other things such as your desired funeral arrangements.
Who should have a Will?
This is a very simple one- we’d argue that anyone over the age of 18 should write a Last Will and testament.
Even if you don’t have any dependents or many worldly possessions, you should still make sure that your wishes are known.
What is included in a Will?
There are a few things that every Will should have.
Firstly there will be the names of at least one, and maybe more executors. These are the people who are in charge of carrying out the instructions you leave.
Then there will be witnesses who are able to attest that it was actually you who made the Will.
But after that, the makeup of every Will can be totally different.
It usually includes a listing of the property that a person has and how it should be divided and instructions around how any remaining assets should be passed on.
Importantly, a Will could include your wishes around guardianship for your children.
It may include instructions about particularly important or meaningful items and how they should be treated.
A Will can also have instructions about the care of pets left behind.
And you can also leave money or assets to charities or other organisations.
What happens if I don’t have a will?
When people die without leaving a Will then their estate is dealt with under the rules of intestacy.
These are a set of legal guidelines that set out how the estate should be dispersed and vitally, these may not accord with your current wishes.
Not leaving a will means that the probate process will probably take a lot longer and leaves your family almost in a state of limbo whilst these things are sorted out.
If you aren’t married to your partner or if you are still married to someone who is no longer in your life you may find that the rules of intestacy produce some odd results indeed and your current partner may not get anything at all.
Do I need to note that I am getting married in my Will?
If you get married then the normal state of affairs is that your Will can become void from that point on.
This makes sense as the law assumes that following your marriage you will want to leave your estate to your new partner.
However, if you include a clause that notes that you are getting married and you intend your Will to still be valid after the nuptials then your document will remain in force.
Can I leave specific gifts in my Will?
Yes absolutely, and this is probably one of the best features of writing a Will.
You may want to leave a set amount of money for your grandchildren’s education, or gift a treasured car to your child or even leave a pet to someone who you know will look after it together with some cash for its upkeep.
Gifts can be of a set amount, say £10,000 or can be a proportion. For example, if you have two children you may leave each of them 50% of your property.
Leaving specific gifts in your Will is a great way to make sure you recognise specific people.
What is the residue of an estate?
The residue or remainder of an estate is what is left after all debts and taxes have been paid and all specific gifts have been passed to their new owners.
You may make a series of gifts and then leave the residue to one person. Or you might decide to split the residue in proportions.
Can I write my funeral arrangements into my Will?
You can indeed but there is one important point to note and that is that these will not be legally binding.
Your family will make your funeral arrangements and executors will have the final say. Generally, they will respect your wishes but for practical reasons may not be able to follow them completely.
What is an executor?
You executor is the person who is in charge of carrying out the whole administration process after your death.
Often this can be more than one person, especially if you have a large estate, and they will collect together all of your assets, apply for probate, pay off any inheritance tax due and then distribute the gifts to the beneficiaries.
What is a witness?
A witness is someone who literally ‘witnesses’ you signing your Will.
This is a legal device designed to ensure that it actually is you who has signed the document.
There needs to be two people to witness the Will and they must be 18 years old or over and they cannot be beneficiaries.
Do I need a solicitor to make a Will?
Not at all.
Theoretically, you could do it yourself as anyone can make a Will but we would counsel caution here.
Whilst you don’t need a solicitor to make a Will, you do need to have someone who is experienced in the area to look it over.
Making a mistake when writing up your document could make the whole thing void which we think means that it is a false economy.
The better alternative, of course, is to use the Smart Will App which is easy to use and will make sure that you don’t fall foul of any unforeseen errors.
Can I change my Will?
Yes, you can.
There are two options here; you can add a thing called a codicil or you can make a whole new document.
A codicil is designed to add in small and fairly insignificant changes to the Will rather than making large variations. These can be troublesome, especially if you end up with a number of codicils attached to the main Will.
Alternatively, you can make a whole new Will that will have the effect of voiding the old document in favour of the new.
Thankfully, when you make a Will using the Smart Will app, lifetime changes are included so you really have no excuse not to keep your Will up to date.
Your next steps
If you are ready to make your Will then sign up now for the Smart Will app.
Our App is specially designed to make the whole process as quick and painless as possible and is incredibly cost-effective.
If you have a more complex estate then our legal experts can give you help and advice to make sure your Will is efficient and effective.