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Monday, June 8, 2015

10 things you must include in your will

By David Johnson

Writing a will is one of the most important things anyone needs to do in order to provide for their loved ones. What to include in it is important, as is how to actually state your wishes.

Things to include

Things must be stated and identified clearly. In any kind of complexity it is usually advisable to consult a specialist. However there are a number of things you can be thinking about before getting to that stage:-
  • You can gift particular items to named beneficiaries in your will – jewellery, furniture, family heirlooms, vehicles, investments - anything you own in fact.
  • Appoint guardians in your will for your children. Even if your spouse is alive, you could die together in an accident leaving your children unprotected. For partners who are not married this is especially important – if an unmarried man dies guardianship usually goes to the mother, but the reverse is not true; if an unmarried woman dies her partner does not automatically get guardianship of their children! Appoint each other guardians in your two separate wills.
  • Your home and any other property can be left in the will, but special rules could apply to property you own jointly with someone else, depending on the arrangement.
  • Residual estate – After making all other gifts and legacies, it is important to state what you wish to happen to the remainder of your estate, if any. If you do not, that part of your estate becomes subject to the laws of intestacy.
  • You can also will money or assets to specified charities.
  • Choose and specify your executor well, and a substitute. They can be a relative or friend, but consider if they are sufficiently good at handling administration matters and large payments.
  • Finally you must sign it before two independent witnesses, who are not mentioned in the will and not the spouse of anyone mentioned.

What needs other arrangements

While dealing with all that, consider also what matters will not be covered by the will and make arrangements for them:
  • A company pension scheme, for one thing. If you die while in the company’s service death benefits will usually be paid at the discretion of the scheme trustees. So you must inform the trustees regarding your wishes as to who should benefit. Failure to do that will mean the money reverts to your estate.
  • Life assurance policies made in trust – contact the insurance company to ensure the money will go to the right person.
  • Next consider if your home is worth more than the threshold for inheritance tax, currently £325,000. There are various ways to avoid it, including giving gifts up to £3000 a year; giving larger amounts - but for these you must survive for 7 years afterward; and putting assets into trust.

Keeping up to date

Remember also that future changes of circumstances may alter matters, especially events such as marriage (which generally cancels an existing will), having children, divorce, or the death of one of your beneficiaries. Be ready to make changes to your will if needed.

The above information applies in England. The rules differ in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

About the author: David Johnson is the owner of Asset Wills, an Essex will writing company who specialise in writing, protecting and executing wills on behalf of their clients.

Image: Author owned and licensed