Making a Will is something many of us put off but is highly desirable even for those with modest estates. A Will provides control as to what will happen after death: for most people this will primarily relate to matters of inheritance but legal guardianship of young children is a vital point. A Will also allows gifts to be made to friends and charities. A Will can also have very beneficial Inheritance Tax consequences, especially for married couples. And lets not forget that many people nowadays have overseas assets that need to be considered. A Will may well incorporate a Will Trust where the estate is left to executors who also act as trustees for underage beneficiaries.
Many people mistakenly assume that their estate will go direct to their partner if they die without making a Will. This isn’t necessarily the case, for example, an unmarried partner is usually entitled to nothing in law. Even a spouse may not receive the entire estate. So dying without a will can have unintended negative consequences.
‘I’ve made a Will – why make another?’ When you write your Will it reflects your wishes at the time it is drawn up. However, as life goes on and circumstances change, so might your wishes for how your assets and belongings are distributed on your death. The most common changes that affect Wills are:
- marriage or re-marriage
- divorce or separation
- birth or adoption of children
It is possible to make alterations by adding a Codicil, but if the alterations are extensive then it would be advisable to start from scratch. Never attempt to write in any amendments or make any alteration to your last Will after it has been signed and do not attach any papers to your Will.
Whilst there are some online will writing services that make the process quick and simple, you should exercise care as a poorly drafted Will is almost as bad as having no Will at all!
As for Living Wills – these can be a minefield as they are not necessarily enforceable. If you wish to stipulate what treatment you should have in certain circumstances or what treatment should be withheld, do seek further advice as below. It is important to be clear about the circumstances envisaged and be documented properly.