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Making a Will gives you peace of mind.  Leaving a Will means that your assets will go to who you want them to go to and not be distributed according to intestacy laws.
 
It is particularly important to make a Will if you have children as, under intestacy laws, your children will inherit from age 18 even if this is not appropriate.  Step-children do not automatically inherit under intestacy laws.  If you are living with someone but not married or in a civil partnership and your partner has children from a previous relationship, these children will not inherit anything under intestacy laws.  So you need to make a Will if you wish to leave anything to children who are not directly related but you have treated them as your children. 
 
You can also name guardians in a Will who will care for any dependent children.  Naming guardians means that your children will receive continuity of care and will save loved ones from having to apply to Court for parental responsibility and help prevent any dependent children being taken into care.  Again, this is important if you have children who are not directly related to you, such as step-children.
 
In a Will you also appoint executors who will action your Will.
 

Things to be considered when making a Will

 
1. Assets
 
  • Draw up a list of your assets, any joint assets and those of your spouse or partner in their sole name.
  • Consider who you want to inherit those assets.
  • Whilst you cannot decide who should inherit assets in your partner’s sole name, knowing who they intend to inherit these assets may inform your decisions.
  • Inheritance tax may be a consideration, but Lawson-West can advise on this and refer you to Lawson-West Financial Services for further, detailed advice if necessary.
  • If you wish to give a specific item such as a picture, piece of jewellery or furniture to a specific person, list these individually giving as much detail as you can.
  • If you have children who are now adults and wish to give differing amounts to children, outlining why in a Letter of Wishes may avoid later disputes.
  • If you wish to give a legacy to a charity, consider whether you wish to donate a specific cash sum or item or whether you wish to give a proportion of your estate.  Please also see our page on leaving legacies to charities.  Lawson-West will advise on the best way for you to leave a legacy if you are unsure.
 
2. Dependent Children
 
  • If you have children under the age of 18 you will need to consider appointing a guardian in your Will.
  • Discuss your choice of guardian with your spouse or partner and with the person you wish to appoint.
  • In a Will you can make provisions for step-children and/or children who live with you as if they are your children, such as children from a partner’s previous relationship.  If you do not make a Will, these children may not inherit anything.
  • If you wish to give children differing inheritances, e.g. because one child has disabilities which limit their future earning potential, you can draw up a Letter of Wishes which explain your decision and may help avoid later disputes.
  • You will need to decide at what age children should inherit.  Under intestacy laws, children inherit at the age of 18, but it may be appropriate to delay this until later.
 
3. Executors
 
  • Normally at least two executors are appointed.
  • Executors might be a family member, trusted friend or a professional person such as a solicitor.
  • Appointing a friend or family member along with a professional person is generally recommended as the friend or family member will understand your wishes and a professional person can ensure that executing the Will is not subject to unnecessary delays.
 

Letter of Wishes

 
This is a document that is stored with your Will that outlines your wishes in more detail, e.g. if you have a specific reason for not giving children equal amounts of your estate or wanting a specific item to go to a specific person.  A letter of wishes can provide clarification for executors.
 
It is also useful to leave a list of financial assets such as savings accounts with the letter of wishes so that executors can find these easily.  It is worth considering making a list of passwords for emails and on-line memberships of social media sites so executors can delete accounts or create tribute pages as appropriate.
 

Reviewing your Will

 
Certain circumstances, such as marriage or divorce, can invalidate a Will so it is a good idea to review your Will regularly, say every five years or so, to check it still reflects your wishes.  If you wish to make changes to your Will, speak to a solicitor as it may be you can simply add a Codicil and may not need to have a new Will drafted.
 
If your family circumstances change, e.g. through re-marriage or separation or the birth of a child, it is worth making a new Will to reflect your new circumstances.  Please see our page on Making a Will after a change in family circumstances for more information.
 
If you would like to make a Will, please call 01858 445480 now or complete one of the on-line forms. You can make an appointment at any of our branches in Market Harborough, Wigston or the Meridian Business Park.  We can also arrange a home or hospital visit if you are unable to attend any of our offices due to your ill health, for a small additional fee.