We all know the importance of making a will but before you begin the process there are a number of things to consider. In this article, Gayle Woods, wills and probate lawyer at Mooney Everett Solicitors in West Lancashire, shares her top six points to consider before making a will.
1. Who will be the executors?
The executors are the individuals that you name to act on your behalf to carry out your wishes in your will. You can have up to four but we usually recommend that you have two. The people you name as executors can also be beneficiaries of your will.
2. Do I need to appoint guardians in my will?
You do need to appoint one or two people as guardians if you have children under the age of 18 years old. Your will is one of the few places you can record your wishes about who you wish to look after your children should both of their parents have died before they are 18 years old.
3. Who will be my beneficiaries?
You can name anyone you wish to be the beneficiaries of your will. We will need their full names and addresses. If they are under the age of 18 you will need to say how old you want the person to be before they can receive their legacy because they cannot receive their legacy until they are 18 years of age or older.
If you do not intend to make equal provision for your children then we recommended that a short written statement is prepared and signed by you confirming your reasons for this. If when you die, your will is challenged in court, your statement can be given as support for your will remaining as it is. A judge will consider your written reasons for making the will in the way you have. A statement does not stop this sort of application being made but it will help your executors defend any claim.
You can leave provision for charity. You will need to think about whether they are to have a specific amount from your estate or a share of the residue. There are also particular rules for charities if inheritance tax is going to impact on your estate which we would need to advise you on if this applies in your case.
4. A final substitution clause – just in case
Once you have thought about who will be your beneficiaries, we will also ask you for final substitutionary beneficiaries. This means for you to consider who would be beneficiaries of the residue of your estate if none of your first choice beneficiaries survived you. It may be that this would be members of your extended family and/or charities; the choice is yours. However, it is important that this is included, just in case.
5. I have married for the second time
If this is the case, then you need to consider how you want to divide your assets, particularly if you want to make provision for your children from your first marriage and your spouse. There are ways you can do this which we can advise you on.
6. Do I need to include a trust in my will?
Not always. Trusts can be used in wills and are helpful to preserve assets for future generations and protect assets from third party claims. Trusts do not have to be complicated and we can advise you about trust options if they are relevant to your circumstances.