Hopefully you know why it’s important to write a will, but what do you need to take into consideration? How can you help to ensure that your executors follow your wishes and that the effect of family changes/arguments are minimized? In this post Prestige Tax and Trust Services look at some of the top tips for preparing a Will.
Rules, regulations and laws referred to are those of the UK at the current time, but the tips are general good practice that applies in most jurisdictions.
1. Use bloodline planning to ‘future-proof’ your will
With bloodline planning you can define distribution of funds so that other events cannot affect your wishes. Without this the allocation of funds can be diluted and changed by re-marriage, divorce, care costs, creditor claims and further inheritance tax bills.
2. Carefully consider your choice of an executor
You’re going to need an executor to help carry out your wishes. So you need to pick someone level-headed that you can trust. Someone ideally that you’re likely to remain in contact with, on positive terms, throughout your life. Quite often people pick their children – but are they ready for this? Are they mature enough? Perhaps you’d like to pick a friend – but could that cause elements within your family to fight against them carrying out your wishes? Pick carefully and remember that you are always entitled – and indeed encouraged – to update your will as necessary.
3. List all your assets
Everything that can be distributed – cash, property, items of value (sentimental or financial) should be listed so you can get a good idea of all that you can make available to family and friends. Leaving anything important out makes it open to contention.
Bear in mind how these items may appreciate/depreciate in value – could you gift something now? If you gift something now and live for 7 years afterwards the gift is considered to be outside of your estate.
4. Regularly review your will
As alluded to in #2, you need to regularly review your will. Do so after any big changes in your family and it’s also recommended to do it every 3-5 years as a matter of course anyway. For small changes you can issue a codicil – this is a legal amendment. It must be signed and witnessed correctly (see #5) in order to apply. You can issue several codicils, but for the sake of clarity and to help your executor follow your wishes, issue a new will after a major change or having issued more than a few amendments.
5. Ensure your will is signed and witnessed according to local laws
This tip is absolutely vital. If this isn’t done correctly, if you leave any possibility for doubting that it’s been done correctly, your will can be challenged. It may render the entire document null and void. Your executor would then retain a greater control of the decision making process (though they could still be challenged by others). In short, two witnesses, over 18, must see you sign the document under no pressure – there are further requirements to bear in mind. They needn’t read the document or all of the document if you don’t want them to, it’s up to you.
You should seek qualified advice on all matters regarding to creating, signing and witnessing your will.