Leaving a legacy doesn't have to be complicated. We've put together some frequently asked questions which we hope will help you through the process.
Why make a will?
If you have no family and have not made a Will, your entire estate could pass to the Crown and be added to the Treasury's coffers. So while you might want your closest friend to have all your possessions, the law will not agree if there is no Will.
Who should make one?
Everyone should make a Will because this is the only way you can be sure that your Estate will be distributed in accordance with your wishes. It is particularly important for parents with young families to make a Will to ensure that their children's needs are safeguarded. It is not enough to guarantee that their financial future is secure, thought must also be given to who will bring them up if you and your partner die. Guardians can be appointed in your Will and your solicitor will help with details of Trust Funds.
Can I draw it up myself?
It is perfectly possible to draw up your own Will but even simple Wills must comply with legal formalities and, if you are not familiar with legal terminology, just one mistake could invalidate the whole document. The best advice we can give is that you use a solicitor to draw up the Will. It is worth the expense to have peace of mind knowing that your wishes cannot be misinterpreted.
How much will it cost?
The solicitor's charges will usually depend on the complexity of your affairs and the time taken to draw up your Will. Don't be afraid to ask for an estimate in advance. It may help to obtain estimates from various local firms before deciding which one to use. There may even be a reduced cost if you and your partner make matching Wills that leave the same property and possessions.
How can I save costs?
To keep costs to a minimum the motto is be prepared! Having all the relevant information to hand will save your solicitor time and save you money. Make a list of all your possessions such as property, furniture and jewellery. Add to this list any shares, insurance certificates or bonds you hold and details of where these documents are stored. Finally, include on the list the name, address and account number of any bank or building society with which you have an account.
What about my funeral arrangements?
As many people never quite get round to discussing funeral arrangements with loved ones, making a Will gives you the opportunity to make your wishes known. Make a note of these to be included in your Will. Strangely enough, the cost of a headstone or memorial is not regarded, by Law, as a funeral expense and it will make matters easier for your Executors if your wishes with regard to a headstone or memorial are also included in your Will.
Who will benefit from my Will?
Write down the full names and addresses of all the people you wish to remember in your Will. Think carefully about precisely which special gifts you wish to make and to whom.
How can I help relations, friends and charities?
If you would like to leave a bequest to charity but need to ensure that relatives or close friends are well provided for during their lifetimes, there is a simple way to achieve both aims. Your solicitor can explain how someone can receive an income or other benefit from your Estate for their lifetime and then, when this is no longer needed, the remainder can be passed to charity.
How much time is involved in making a Will?
Making a Will usually involves two trips to your solicitor, a first visit to give your instructions and a second appointment to check the document which has been prepared and to sign it.
What if I change my mind?
Many people put off making a Will in case they change their minds about legacies and bequests in later years.
However, once you have made a Will, the original contents can be changed or added to by means of a Codicil and will not involve re writing your Will. The Codicil has to be signed and witnessed in the same way as the Will itself, although the witnesses do not have to be the same. The Codicil must be kept with, but not affixed to, your Will.