Specialist Will Writers
CORONA VIRUS UPDATE . Worried that you, or friends and family, don’t have a Will? Or at least one that reflects your current circumstances? Want to avoid a face-to-face meeting?
We have the answer? Click here to find out about video Will service.
Are you looking for help with making your Will, or updating it? We can help. Our solicitors prepare Wills and Trusts, as well as dealing with with probate cases for clients throughout Wiltshire, Hampshire and Dorset and further afield from our 4 offices.
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. And according to research released in 2020, the average age of people making wills has increased to 58. This leaves far too many younger people without the protection of a will. A will is not just for the old and middle-aged
What’s more, recent research in Which? magazine in June 2018 found that of over 2000 people surveyed, a full 61% said that they don’t have a Will – and 16% said they had simply been too busy to sort one out!
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.
Click here to read more about making a Lasting Power of Attorney.
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
So just call us to book in your FREE wills review appointment – with no obligation or strings attached.
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
Making Your Will – What To Include
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.
Click here to read more about making or defending an Inheritance Claim
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 carry out a review 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”). So if you have got married or entered into a civil partnership since your last will, then unless that phrase appears in your will, you have no current valid will.
Living together but no will– are you at risk?
With increasing number of Britons now cohabiting, many still don’t realise that they don’t have the same legal protection as married couples. That’s why it’s even more important for people who are living together to make sure they have a valid or up-to-date will that reflects their individual circumstances.
Click here to read more about cohabitation and your legal rights
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, it 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.
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 version.
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.
Making my 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 – 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)
NB To give you an idea of how much money is left under wills every year, according to research issued in 2020 by market analysts, Legacy Foresight, the total amount of legacy income was £3.2 billion .
•What do you want to happen to your business interests?
•Tax implications – especially Inheritance Tax
Making your Will – Why consider Appointing Us as Your Executors?
The private client team here at Bonallack and Bishop are highly experienced in acting as executors. And there are some very good reasons why you might want to trust us with administering your estate – including the following:
• Price – here at B&B we never claim to be the cheapest – but we do provide a cost-effective and value for money estate administration service.
But watch out for Banks – their probate charges are often extremely expensive, and don’t forget to read the small print. If you compare our prices with those charged by banks for the same service, we think you’ll be presently surprised
• We take on responsibility for administering the whole of your estate – we often find that individual executors often struggle with the complexity of probate – especially at a time when they are coming to terms with the loss of a loved one
• However, the family can be as involved as they wish and we offer this as an option too. If the beneficiaries want to handle probate themselves, we are happy to respect their wishes and handover the role of executor to them – a process technically known as “renouncing probate”.
Alternatively, although we appointed executors, we can work with beneficiaries and family members to share their response with your probate, keeping legal costs down
• Avoiding the risk of DIY probate There are some tricky aspects of probate – and DIY probate can prove expensive if it goes wrong
• We are impartial and independent, which can reduce family conflict
• We are trusted by our clients, and by those who work with us (e.g. Age UK with whom we have run three “Free Wills for the over 75s” campaigns)
• Clients come to us knowing they will be treated with kindness and understanding
• We speak in plain English helping you to understand what is going on at every stage
Witnessing your will
To be valid, your will will need to not only be signed by you – but that signature must be in the presence of two witnesses. Those witnesses must be over 18 and it is important that the witnesses are not the appointed executors or people who will be benefiting from the will. In fact if you witness a will and you are named as one of the beneficiaries in the will, you will lose your right to any gift under the will when the person dies.
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, destroyed or lost Wills open up the possibility of an inheritance claim, or the possibility of your loved ones disputing a Will. Such contested inheritance claims 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 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 Executors knows its whereabouts so that it can be located after your death.
Do you pay your bank for storage? 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 our 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.
NB don’t keep your will in a bank safety deposit box. Quite apart from the unnecessary financial charges, there is a major problem. When you die, the deposit box cannot be opened until grant of probate – and probate can’t be granted without the will. Spot the potential problem!!!
Beware of DIY Wills and unqualified Will-writers
Do not make a homemade or DIY will and watch out for ‘Wills writers’ with qualifications. Some “Wills 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 an inheritance claim – 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 Wills, without the help of a solicitor. People either download a DIY will template online or buy a ‘wills 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.
• 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 goes 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. And more and more of those are going to court. 2019 saw the number of inheritance disputes dealt with bythe High Court increase by 62% compared with 2019. That’s massive stress and big legal bills for a lot of British families. 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 Wills 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 Wills-writing company in Doncaster – files which contained highly confidential information, including original Wills!
Yes, that is certainly possible. Whilst single wills are by far the most common, it is possible for a couple to make a will together.
Click here to read more about the differences between Joint, Mirror and Mutual Wills
If you want to produce a new Will or revoke an earlier version, make sure that you do destroy the previous Will – and all copies of it. The best way of destroying Wills is normally to burn them – to make sure that there is no remaining legible text. Don’t forget however if you do destroy your Will, and fail to make a new one before you die, it will be as if you had never made a Will in the first place.
However if somebody destroys your Will without your permission, it actually remains valid – although there may be problems in actually proving the contents of destroyed Wills when it comes to granting Probate, unless there are surviving copies of that Will.
What is a will trust?
Trusts are legal entities which enable a person to benefit from an asset without actually being the legal owner.
There are a number of different types of trusts.
A will trust (often referred to as a testamentary trust) can be created by your will as a powerful tool in wealth protection and tax planning. However, they are complex vehicles and to make sure that your desired results are achieved it is imperative you receive expert legal advice. Our private client team regularly create and manage trusts for clients.
Click here to read more about how our Trust Solicitors could help you
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.
Click here to read more about a living will.
Click here to find out more about mental capacity for wills.
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.