Frequently Asked Questions: Wills
Wills, Trusts & Probate
Our Wills specialist Elizabeth Maurice gets asked questions about wills on a daily basis.
Here, we’ve summarised some of the most popular questions for you.
- How do I go about writing a Will?
- Can I do it myself?
- How much will it cost?
- Do you do home visits?
- What do I need to consider when writing a Will for a second marriage?
- I’m buying a house – do I need a Will?
- Can an executor/beneficiary be a witness to a Will?
- Can an Executor also be a beneficiary?
- Who needs to be involved?
- Won’t my estate pass to my husband/wife anyway?
How do I go about writing a Will?
The easiest way is to make an appointment to see one of our solicitors, who can advise you of all you need to know. They will guide you through the decisions you need to make, such as who your executors should be, guardians for minor children and who to leave your money to. Advice will also be given about potential inheritance tax implications.
A draft document will then be prepared for your approval.
When you are happy with the draft, you can come back to the office to sign with us, and we act as your required witnesses, or we send the final document to you with execution instructions.
We also store the original finished document free of charge, if you wish.
Can I do it myself?
Technically yes, but we wouldn’t recommend this.
Wills are very rarely “simple”, even when you have grown up children and leave your estate to them.
There are tax implications where gifts are left to minor children and you may wish to consider utilising your Wills for tax planning.
We usually find in meetings that there is always a scenario that hasn’t been considered, so it is best to seek advice. W Davies will guide you through the process and prepare a document which will address your wishes, whilst being tax efficient and ensure that the document will work effectively.
How much will it cost?
For simple Wills we charge a fixed fee – £450 plus VAT (£540) for a single Will, or £600 plus VAT (£720) for mirror Wills.
If matters are quite complicated, such as you require significant inheritance tax planning or need to incorporate intricate trusts, then the matter will be charged on an hourly rate basis. We will be able to advise you of this in your initial meeting.
Do you do home visits?
Yes. We are always very happy to see people in their home, though some travel disbursements such as a small mileage charge may apply.
What do I need to consider when writing a Will for a second marriage?
Second marriages are very common these days. In the majority of cases, you and your new spouse may have different children and perhaps children together also.
When considering how to prepare your Wills, no doubt you will Want to ensure that when you pass away, your spouse is looked after, though ultimately your assets pass to your beneficiaries – for example the children from a previous relationship.
This can be dealt with quite easily by incorporating a trust in your Will. The most common of which is called a “Life Interest Trust”. This type of trust is geared towards looking after the surviving spouse, but protects the underlying capital assets for the “remaindermen” who are the beneficiaries you choose. It is quite a tax efficient trust and one that most people are able to understand and feel comfortable with.
For those who want simple Wills and leave assets to each other absolutely, you should be aware that your spouse’s Will could be changed at any time after you die. Therefore if your spouse inherits your money, after your death they could change their Will and leave everything to their own family, excluding your children.
I’m buying a house – do I need a Will?
If you own property, particularly if you have purchased it with someone else, you should make a Will. If you have assets, then a Will appoints executors to deal with these assets and makes sure the appropriate beneficiaries inherit your money.
Property can pass in different ways, depending on how it is held, and you may have different intentions as to what you would like to happen to your “share” if you die. By preparing a Will, this makes sure your intentions are clear and your money ends up where you would like it to.
Can an executor/beneficiary be a witness to a Will?
There are no rules preventing an executor being a witness – however if a witness is a beneficiary, they will disinherit themselves by witnessing.
We always recommend you ask an independent person, to whom you are not related by blood or marriage. The person should not be named in the Will to avoid any issues, and they should also not be related to any beneficiaries.
When preparing Wills for our clients, we act as the requisite witnesses to avoid any issues arising, and ensure that the document is executed correctly.
Can an Executor also be a beneficiary?
Quite often people will leave their estate to family members, who can also act as the executors. This is most common with adult children, who will deal with the estate and inherit the money.
If you are leaving money to minor children then we recommend you find at least two people who can manage the funds as trustees until the children reach the age of majority, or the age contingency specified in the Will.
W Davies can act as executors if you do not have anyone you wish to appoint in this capacity.
Who needs to be involved?
If W Davies draft your Will, it will involve a meeting with you, and no one else. If you have significant assets, it may be sensible to organise a round table meeting with existing accounts or financial advisors, though this is not necessary if you want to keep things private.
Won’t my estate pass to my husband/wife anyway?
If you don’t have a Will, you are said to have died “intestate”. The intestacy rules aren’t quite as simple as everything passing to your spouse, if you have children.
Even if the intestacy rules actually reflect your wishes, we still recommend that you prepare a Will. This enables you to appoint executors to deal with your estate, who will find it easier to access funds and apply for Probate. If there is no Will “administrators” must be appointed and this can cause arguments amongst family members and it is much trickier when applying for a Grant to enable you to collect in the assets.
If you die intestate, you also cannot appoint guardians for your children or suggest a higher age than 18 at which they inherit your estate, if they are minors.
If you don’t have a Will and you don’t have any family members for the funds to pass to on intestacy (though this goes as far as distant cousins), the funds will ultimately end up “Bona Vacantia” and pass to the state. If this is the case, then you may wish to consider at least leaving money to a preferred charity or to several different ones.
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