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1) Why make a Last Will and testament?
What is a Last Will?
Your Will lets you make decisions about what happens to your money, property and possessions after your death.
If you don’t make a Last Will and testament, what happens is decided by the Rules of Intestacy which can be especially unfortunate for unmarried couples and in second marriages and separation.
Your Will (if correctly written) can also make sure your family don’t have to pay more Inheritance Tax than necessary.
You can write your will yourself, but you should get legal advice (preferably from us!) to make sure your Will is interpreted in the way you would have expected – many are not.
- You need to get your Will formally witnessed and signed to make it legally valid.
- You can make minor amendments to a Will by way of a separate document called a “codicil” but it is always preferable to rewrite the Will to make certain things are clear, and avoid the possibility of losing the codicil. If you attach anything at all to the Will you are likely to invalidate it.
- Getting married also cancels you Will, unless it was made specifically in the expectation of your getting married (to that person) and your intention is clear. If that happens and the Will still does what you wish, it is possible to save it by way of a special document.
- You can’t leave your witnesses (or their married partners) anything in your will.
Who can make a Last Will?
For your Will to be legally valid, you must:
· be 18 or over ( exceptions for persons on active service under that age)
· make it voluntarily
· be of sound mind
· make it in writing
· sign it in the presence of 2 witnesses who are both over 18
· have it signed by your 2 witnesses, in your presence: if you make any changes to your will you must follow the same signing and witnessing process.
What should be included in your Last Will?
Your will should make clear:
· Who you want to benefit and how.
· Who should look after any children under 18 (their guardians.)
· Who is going to sort out your estate (your executor.)
· What happens if the people you want to benefit die before you.
In almost every case, your Will will need to be reviewed and updated as life, the Law, Tax and family circumstances change. That is where the Peace of Mind Service comes in handy.
When you need our legal advice
Ideally, always, but we appreciate that not everyone can afford to pay fees, but DIY Wills are potentially dangerous.
Here are some circumstances where it is especially important to get sound Legal Advice:
· if you have a so called “common law” partner.
· You want to leave money or property to a dependant who can’t care for themselves.
· You have anyone who might dispute your Will.
· Your permanent home is outside the UK or you have overseas assets.
· You have a business.
· If your estate is large enough to pay Inheritance Tax, or may be if you inherit.
- You have a complicated family and want to ensure everyone is protected properly.
Update your will (see Peace of Mind Service).
You should review your will every 2 years at least and after any major change in your life, eg:
· getting separated or divorced.
· getting married (this cancels any will you made before.)
· having a child.
· moving house.
· if the executor named in the will dies.
Making changes to your Will.
You can’t amend your will after it’s been signed and witnessed. The only way you can change a will is by making an official alteration called a codicil.
You must sign a codicil and get it witnessed in the same way as witnessing a will.
There’s no limit on how many codicils you can add to a will. But it is much better to do a new Will each time, to take into account all the current circumstances.
Making a new Will.
For major changes you should make a new Will.
Your new Will should explain that it revokes (officially cancels) all previous wills and codicils. You should destroy your old will by burning it or tearing it up.