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HAVE YOU MADE A WILL? – an article by Mike Howell

Published 29/11/2017 11:04:00, by Marina Maher



You may have thought about it but done nothing.  You may think there is no requirement if your resources are modest.  This is not so.  If you own a house, a car, some savings, a life assurance policy or pension fund rights, or even if all you leave is some cash and a stamp collection, you should decide now who should get them. Sadly, in even the most well ordered of families, the death of a senior member can cause considerable unrest and problems if no Will has been made.
Have you ever thought?
What happens if a husband and wife are killed together in a car crash?
What happens if children die before their parents, leaving a family of their own?
That if you do not assign your most valued possessions they may well have to be sold, simply to  settle a family squabble?
If you leave no Will and therefore “die intestate”, don't imagine that the 'fair' thing will happen and that your next of kin will automatically inherit your possessions.  Strict rules have been laid down by Act of Parliament, saying who gets your property.  With no Will to provide for her, a widow may have to share the estate with her children or even her parents-in-law.  Her share could be swallowed up in the value of the home, leaving her little or nothing to live on. The administration of your estate will inevitably be delayed, thereby creating the potential for hardship and further distress. It is unfair to those you love to burden them with unnecessary and additional financial worries, on top of personal bereavement.
HOW TO GO ABOUT MAKING A WILL
You can purchase a Will form from any reputable stationers  You can also attempt to write your own with some of the many products available on the internet such as the guide provided by the publishers of WHICH? 


https://www.which.co.uk/money/wills-and-probate/probate/guides/diy-probate


Except in an emergency, none of the above methods are recommended, and you are strongly advised to consult a solicitor.  Normally a simple Will costs between £100 and £300, depending on complexity and the fee rates.  Remember that solicitors normally make much more money sorting out the mistakes of homemade Wills than they do by drawing up proper ones.
When making a Will adopt the 'rule of three' as follows: -
1.  Think about what you want to do and about its consequences.  You will not be around to put things right if you have got them wrong.
2.  Ask someone, preferably of your own age or younger, to be your executor.  This can be your 
spouse, a relative or friend or even your solicitor bearing in mind that he will charge for the
service.
3.  Find a solicitor and discuss with him what you want to do.
Your executor is legally entitled to consult a solicitor and may charge the cost to your estate.  It is quite common, when the executor is a relative or friend, to leave that person a small amount for their trouble.
Be sure you understand what your solicitor has written.  Do not be put off by the legal jargon. Ask him to explain.  Above all, be sure he/she has written what you want to happen.
Remember, Wills need reviewing on a regular basis.  An out-of-date Will can be just as disastrous as not making one at all.  The effect of the law is such that it is extremely important that if, after making a Will, you marry, get divorced or re-marry, you should make another Will.
Wills should always be kept in a safe place, either with a Bank or with a solicitor.  A copy of it may be kept at home for reference.  A list of instructions for the surviving spouse such as who to inform and what other action is required, and any wishes as to your burial, can be a very useful and thoughtful guide for your executor(s).



   WHAT MARRIED COUPLES SHOULD DO?
It is common practice for spouses to make Wills in more or less identical terms, leaving the major assets to the other (if that is what they intend). Such transfers are free from Inheritance Tax. It is usual to include a proviso that the inheriting spouse will inherit only if he or she survives the deceased spouse by 28 days or so. Married couples can both be killed in a car accident.  You do not want your estate to pass through that of another deceased person - it increases the work and cost. If your spouse does not survive you by 28 days, leave everything to your children or whomever you and your spouse may decide.
Appoint your spouse as an executor. Also each appoints an alternative executor (who should be your own age or younger) as a precaution against the simultaneous death of both you and your spouse.  This could be your child singly or jointly if of age and independent.
If your spouse is your sole beneficiary and your executor it saves time, trouble and money.  She or he has to account to no one in dealing with or disposing of your estate. If the executor does not wish to employ a solicitor, a comprehensive guide for people acting without a solicitor can be downloaded:

 http://www.probateforms.info/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/PA2-How-to-obtain-probate-leaflet.pdf

If your children are under age, appoint a guardian. This will be someone who is prepared to look after them and bring them up when you and your wife are dead.  The guardian could be, but does not have to be, the alternate executor.  The alternate executor will have to manage your affairs and those of your wife until you children are of an age to inherit what you have both left to them. Remember in these circumstances the guardian/s may require financial help to look after your children. Provision for this will need to be specified in the Will. 

A properly thought out Will can be tax efficient, and enables positive demonstrations of generosity which are impossible under the intestacy rules. There are considerable advantages in having a joint bank account as this provides an immediate source of finance to the surviving spouse.  For those to whom inheritance tax might be a problem, you should discuss the implications with a solicitor, financial advisor or a specialist firm.

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