Points to consider
What does an executor do?
Executors are the people appointed by you to carry out your instructions. Anyone over the age of 18 and of sound mind can be an Executor. They are often a trusted family member who can handle the responsibility. You can appoint up to four people, but be aware that if they disagree, things can get drawn out (and expensive).Consider a Reserve Executor in case any of your first choice are unwilling or unable to act.
The Executor can also be a beneficiary. This may be reassuring to your spouse/partner if they are asked to take on the role. If a professional Executor is appointed then please make provision in the will for their bill.
Who should I appoint as Trustees?
They are often executors. A trustee will hold assets for the benefit of someone else,e.g. you may wish to leave money to children under the age of 18. In these circumstances your trustees would usually be expected to manage the money and distribute funds when it is appropriate or until they reach the age at which they take control over the funds themselves. This can any age between 18 and 25. If you have a dependant adult child, this duty can go on for a lot longer. Make sure that you choose the right people for the job.
Who should I appoint as Guardians for the children?
It is essential to appoint Guardians if you have children under the age of 18. You may want to consider someone who has a good relationship with them, are local, and who shares your views regarding how children should be brought up. Something else worth considering ….
Do your guardians have sufficient funds to cover food, clothing, holidays, and maybe….…a higher education? Consider the benefits of life insurance and obtain quotes.
Do I have to list everything that I own in my estate?
No, but if you want to gift objects or certain amounts of money to particular people, then make that list. What you do not specify in your estate is dealt with as “residue”. This is everything that remains in the estate after specific bequests (if any) and after payment of all debts, taxes, and expenses. It helps when leaving gifts that you name the recipient and provide a description of the gift:
“The dusty old painting in the attic is to go to my nephew David”…….
Expression of wishes
If you do not want to re-write your will or add a codicil every time you change your mind about minor points, then write an Expression of Wishes letter. Your trustees should factor in your preferences but be aware that this is not a legal document.
Gifts to a charity
If you want to provide a gift to a charity, then give the full name, address, and registered number of that charity. You can also nominate a reserve charity as a beneficiary, just in case your first choice is no longer available.
What happens if the person I have left a legacy to dies before I do?
Normally, the legacy would lapse, and it then becomes part of the residue of your estate unless you have given instructions to the contrary.
Can I make provision for funeral requests in a will?
Yes. You can say whether you wish to be buried or cremated and if appropriate, the type and style of any service. This is a wish and does not count as an instruction. It’s a good idea to let close relatives know about your choices in advance, rather than providing a topic of conversation at the wake.
Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill received Royal Assent on 15 March and is now an act of parliament. This means that adults in England will be considered potential donors unless they chose to opt out or are excluded. The act is known as Max and Keira’s law in honour of a boy who received a heart transplant and the girl who donated it
Can I cancel my Will?
You can cancel your Will by either destroying the original or by making a new Will. Please note that getting married invalidates any existing Will, although getting divorced does not.You should always keep your Will in a safe place as your Executors need the original.
What makes a will valid?
For a will to be valid, it must be made voluntarily by a person who is 18 years old or over and of sound mind. This means the person must be fully aware of the nature of the document and of the identity of the people who may inherit. The document must be signed by the person making the will in the presence of two witnesses.
A witness or the married partner of a witness cannot benefit from a will. If a witness is a beneficiary (or the married partner or civil partner of a beneficiary), the will is still valid, but the beneficiary will not be able to inherit under the will.
Although legally valid even if it is not dated, it is advisable to ensure that the will also includes the date on which it is signed.
When should you update your will?
A will doesn’t have an expiry date, but unlike a fine wine it doesn’t improve with age. Your will should be dusted off and checked at least 5 yearly or if:
You get engaged, married, or divorced
You buy or sell a property
You inherit a significant amount . An executor, beneficiary, or guardian dies
You want to change a beneficiary .You want to add a specific gift or message to someone you love
Inheritance tax legislation or the law governing wills changes
DIY Wills – no problem ?
No will in place to date, but after consideration, you may decide that you’d like to do something about it. That’s great! Here’s a scenario:
You don’t want anything too complicated so let’s keep it simple. A friend recently picked up a do-it-yourself will pack on a trip to the newsagent and you decide to follow suit. After filling it in, you need a couple of witness signatures. One neighbour is duly obliging, but the other neighbour is out. The instructions say that the form needs to be signed by two people. Your daughter-in-law is in the kitchen so how about her? after all your Son is a beneficiary.
Whilst this may be convenient, a beneficiary’s spouse can’t sign as a witness and be allowed to benefit from the estate. A simple error, but it means that your son won’t inherit his share.
Of course this doesn’t apply to you; after all you’ve just read the above example.
Which will fits the bill ?
People do make arrangements, but don’t always factor in changes. Why use a trust when all you want is a simple mirror Will ?
Scenario: John and Mary (married and recently retired) both have valid wills which leave everything to each other when one of them dies and then to their children Peter and Jane, on the second death. This may sound familiar, but when you examine it in a bit more detail there are a few assumptions which may cause a problem:
John expires, and in his will leaves everything to Mary.Since she needs to lift her spirits, a Caribbean cruise is booked.
Whilst Peter and Jane are happy that she’s getting over things, they are surprised when on return to the UK, Mum descends the gangplank with her new friend…Simon the Steward.
After a whirlwind romance, Mary and Simon marry and set up home together. The wallpapering takes precedence, and the paperwork takes a back seat. They settle down to live life together at a more leisurely pace.
Unfortunately, whilst driving back from the shops one morning, Mary is distracted whilst passing the travel agents and sadly doesn’t survive the ensuing crash. Fortunately no one else was hurt.
Mary’s current will is invalid (as marriage automatically revokes any existing will). She has died intestate. The estate is less than £270 000 in value and consequently this means that everything goes to Simon….
Simon’s daughter from his first marriage, Rachel arrives to console Dad whilst reminding him that he’d promised to fund his grandchildren’s education. Simon doesn’t want to make a fuss, and so a significant amount of the inheritance is transferred into Rachel’s account. Rachel apologises to Peter and Jane as she books the taxi to the airport. Peter and Jane are duly dismayed when they learn that by proper planning all of this could have been avoided………
Trusts (and trustees)
This time Mary and Simon did remember to make new wills. Mary’s estate is now placed into a flexible trust for Peter and Jane (and their families) to benefit from. Peter and Jane are appointed as trustee’s to keeps things simple. Things work well, and everyone is happy with the arrangements. Brother and Sister get on well together and there’s no disputes until………
Peter needs a large amount of money to cover the cost of his forthcoming wedding. Peter’s fiancé is Charity.She enjoys lavish holidays and can’t resist the roulette wheel.
Brother and Sister meet to discuss Peter’s latest request for funds, and depart from the meeting without a hug and a kiss.
Since Peter and Jane are the only trustees, and can no longer agree on distributions, tempers can sometimes get frayed. If only Mum had appointed an additional trustee (perhaps an impartial friend/relative or a lawyer) all of this could have been avoided. It would certainly help to ensure that the intended beneficiaries are provided for when appropriate, whilst ring-fencing them from unwanted/undeserving individuals.
Will trusts don’t have to be complicated.They are used to ensure that the right funds go to the right people at the right time. They can also be used to provide for vulnerable beneficiaries when it’s appropriate.
The above examples may seem unlikely, however they do show that the right decisions can make things simpler. This is very important at a time when complex and confusing issues are certainly not welcome.