Are you looking for help with making or updating your will? We can help. Our solicitors prepare Wills and deal with with probate cases for clients throughout Wiltshire, Hampshire and Dorset from our offices in Salisbury, Fordingbridge, Andover and Amesbury.
Do you have a Will?
Making your Will is the easiest thing to put off. It is estimated that over 70% of the population don’t have a current accurate Will. Don’t be one of them! If you are, you risk dying intestate (i.e. without saying who should inherit your property) and leaving a very uncertain future for your family, friends and business partners. Our specialist Wills solicitors strongly advise that you make a Will, review it regularly and consider taking out a Lasting Power of Attorney. It costs less than you think – we offer value for money fixed fees for simple Wills.
Free Review of your Will
If you’re not sure of whether or not you need to update your will, then take advantage of Bonallack and Bishop’s free review offer – just call them to book in your free review appointment.
Why do I need a Will?
If you do not make a Will:
- Your family could be involved in unnecessary costs and delay
- You will have no control over what happens to your property
- Disagreements may arise between how your property is split between your family
- You may not have made enough financial provision for your spouse
- Your family home may have to be sold to distribute the assets unless you make the position clear to the contrary
- There might be more tax to pay
- You could leave your business partners unprotected resulting in a forced business sale
- If you are co-habiting without having married then your partner will have no automatic right to any part of your estate
In contrast, if you make a Will you keep more control over what happens to your estate after you die and you can ensure that:
- Those you care for are provided for
- You minimise tax payable on your death
- You make proper provision for your co-habitee if you are unmarried
- You choose someone to look after the day to day care of your young children
- You decide who deals with your estate (known as the executor)
- You remember family and friends by leaving them particular gifts
- You provide a smooth handover of your business
- You avoid disputes over your property from first and second families
What to include in your will
Don’t forget your estate may be more valuable than you think and includes:
- Your home
- Your savings
- Your personal possessions
- Any insurance or pension policies
- Your business
- Second homes
Can certain individuals be excluded from my Will?
Although only named beneficiaries can benefit from the terms of your Will it is possible to include a simple clause excluding certain individuals, depending on their ‘category’. However, the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 enables certain categories (particularly spouses and minor children) to apply to the court to contest your will by making an inheritance claim for reasonable financial provision if they have been excluded or not adequately provided for in your Will.
Do I really need to update my Will?
Modern life is complicated, and not getting any simpler. Over the years you will find your personal circumstances change several times. As your life progresses so should your Will. A Will that might be suitable for a single person in their 20s without any assets or children, will probably be completely inappropriate for someone say in their 50s who owns their own house, has their own business, was married and divorced and has now remarried and started a second family.
It is those kind of changes in your personal circumstances that mean you need to regularly review your will. In fact, we advise that you should review your Will every two or three years to ensure to ensure it reflects your wishes and accurately reflects any changes in circumstances, e.g. marriage or divorce, children and grandchildren, investing in new assets, starting a business, etc. These kind of changes can significantly affect your Estate, your responsibilities and tax liabilities upon death and even the validity of the Will itself.
But don’t just take our word for it. Here’s a direct quote taken from the government’s own gov.uk website
“You should review your Will every 5 years and after any major change in your life, eg:
- getting separated or divorced
- getting married (this cancels any will you made before)
- having a child
- moving house
- if the executor named in the Will dies”
How does my marital status affect my Will?
Wills are revoked by both marriage and entering into a civil partnership (unless the will is made in “contemplation of marriage/civil partnership”).
How can I change my Will?
It is not possible to simply amend an existing Will once it has been both signed and witnessed.
To change your Will you have two choices;
- You can add what is called a “Codicil” – that’s a legal document which alters any existing will. A Codicil needs to meet the same legal requirements as a Will (e.g. as to signature and witnessing). A Codicil is appropriate for any small changes to your wishes. In theory, you can add as many Codicils as you like to an existing Will, although once you have added a few Codicils, your Will might start to look a little complicated and it might be easier to simply start from scratch and prepare a new Will entirely. Codicils need to be signed and witnessed in the same way as your main will document.
How many codicils can I add to my will? You can add as many codicils as you like to your will. However, if you have to make a lot of changes over time, or if you need to make particularly complex changes, then it is better to have a completely new will drafted.
If your circumstances change dramatically e.g. you get married, you should write a new Will.
2. You can make a completely new Will – which must make it clear that it revokes or cancels any previous Will. It’s also a very good idea to physically destroy any old Will when you’ve made a new one. You should burn your Will [probably the safest way of destroying a will] or tear it up if you want to revoke it completely. If there are quite a few changes to make, then making an entirely new Will is the right way to go.
I want to make a Will – what should I do next?
Before you see a solicitor, list your assets and consider who you would like to provide for and in what way. In particular you should think about:
- The nature and value of your property
- If you have any particular wish for your funeral arrangements
- If you want to donate any of your organs or allow your body to be used for medical purposes
- Who you would like to administer your estate – your executor to ‘wind up your affairs’. This could be your partner, a beneficiary or your solicitor, who has the knowledge and experience to make sure your wishes are fulfilled.
- Who you would wish to look after your children if you cannot
- Who you would like to benefit from your Will – including your partner, children, any previous family and your extended family and friends.
You might want to think about whether you would like to leave money ‘in trust’ for children or grandchildren until they are grown up and at what age you think they should inherit.
- Consider whether you would like to leave some money to charity (this can minimise a tax liability).
- What do you want to happen to your business interests?
- Tax implications – especially Inheritance Tax
Keeping your will safe
When you have made a will, it’s essential that is kept safely. If not, and you end up with a lost or destroyed will, things can get complicated.
If there is no will at all then the intestacy rules apply [i.e. it is if you died without a will], in which case your property is distributed in line with very rigid rules, and it’s very likely that your property won’t end up where you wished.
Worse still a destroyed or lost will opens up the possibility of an inheritance claim, or the possibility of your loved ones disputing a will. Such contested probate claimas often achieve little apart from spending much of your estate on legal costs, not to mention the risk of permanent and irreparable family splits.
The answer is simple – we can store your will for free [see below]- that’s particularly sensible if you take up the option of your Bonallack and Bishop acting as your executors.
Other safe alternatives include a fireproof safe at home or leaving it with your bank – though banks, unlike solicitors, usually make an substantial annual charge for the privilege of storage.
Regardless of where you decide to store your Will, you must ensure that your Executor(s) knows its whereabouts so that it can be located after your death.
Free Wills Storage
Do you pay your bank for storing your Will? If so you’re in good company because many banks routinely charge substantial sums annually for looking after your documents.
Bonallack and Bishop can store your Will and House Deeds free of charge in their secure fire proof storage, with no strings attached – even if the Will was not prepared by Bonallack and Bishop for you in the first place.
So why keep your documents in the bank – transfer them to us today – and stop your hard-earned wealth simply adding to your bank’s profits.
Beware of DIY Wills and unqualified will-writers
Do not make a homemade or DIY will and watch out for ‘Will-writers’ with qualifications. Some “will writers” are perfectly reputable, but far too many are not and many operate without any insurance cover. What is more, using them is more likely to result in incorrect or invalid Wills and you could end up with potential beneficiaries becoming embroiled in contesting a will – a growing trend which not only proves expensive, it is also a long and stressful process which can also divide families permanently.
Many people also choose to write their own will, without the help of a solicitor. People either download a DIY will template online or buy a ‘will pack’ from a stationery shop. It’s no coincidence that the number of wills contested in the High Court has risen stratospherically, which has come about at the same time that DIY wills have been on the increase.
Some of the most common problems with DIY wills include the following:
• Inheritance tax issues — are you totally confident to make provisions for inheritance tax and can you ensure the will is properly drafted to minimise inheritance tax?
• Financial dependents — do you have people who are financially dependent on you – if you do and you don’t provide proper provision for them in your will that could cause major problems in the future when it comes to probate.
• Unclear wording — wills must be written in a way in which the wording cannot possibly be misunderstood or misconstrued. If you choose to write your own DIY will, unless you’re extremely careful you could well increase the chances that someone could successfully dispute it in the future.
• Businesses and self employment — if you run a business, wills and probate issues are further complicated, especially if you’re leaving the business to someone as part of your will.
• Property — probate can become particularly complicated if you own property. Don’t even think of doing a DIY will if you have overseas property – unless you’re 100% sure you know what you’re doing
• Foreign investments or bank accounts — Again, these form a very complicated area of probate law, so if you have any foreign bank accounts or investments, steer clear of a DIY will.
If you get it badly wrong when writing a DIY will, it is perfectly possible that the court decides your will is invalid – and that means you’ve died intestate. In that case, it’ll be the state which decides where your money goes. If that happens, unmarried partners will receive nothing, your children might not get what you had planned, your inheritance tax outlay could well be much higher and if you have no relatives living your entire estate will go to the government.
Writing your own DIY will, then, is an incredibly risky business. Recent research from the Co-operative Legal Services suggest that badly drafted DIY wills cause serious probate problems for 38,000 UK families every year. Don’t become one of them.
To give you an idea of how risky the unregulated sector can be, a few years back, staff from a Gainsborough-based will writing business, Minster Legal Services, [which had ceased trading on the death of its sole director the previous month], simply dumped over 1000 of their files on the pavement outside a will-writing company in Doncaster – files which contained highly confidential information, including wills!
What is a Living Will?
An ‘advance directive’ document containing instructions to medical personnel allowing them to prevent the prolonging of your life in the event of you becoming terminally ill, permanently unconscious or lose your mental capacity.
Probate involves dealing with the estate of someone who has died – collecting in monies that are owed, settling taxes or debts and distributing the estate among the beneficiaries. Click for more about how our probate solicitors can help you.