Wills and Trusts FAQs

On this page we answer the most common questions we have received as a result of the Coronavirus lockdown. In particular there have been many questions centred around the making of Wills, the logistics of having Wills witnessed etc.

When is the right time to draw up a Will?

Essentially every homeowner, asset holder or parent needs a Will.

To draft a Will you must be aged over 18 years (there are some exceptions to this age rule).

Why is having a Will important?

A Will is the most important document that you will make. That is because a Will incorporates our wishes about whom we wish to benefit, how we wish to benefit them and who has the responsibility of dealing with our assets after our death. It is much better to have made an informed decision about your estate then to have the Intestacy Rules govern how your estate will be distributed and by whom because you have not made a Will.

A Will can also be a very useful vehicle for:

  • Inheritance tax planning;
  • Protecting assets for vulnerable adults or children (by means of a trust);
  • Protecting assets for the purposes of care funding (by means of a trust);
  • Providing for Guardians.

What are the main assets which can be covered in a Will?

The assets that you can leave in your Will may be property, money, bank accounts, investments and shares. Indeed any asset that you own or of which you share ownership. This can include your “digital assets”. A Will can also make provision for items that have sentimental value i.e. jewellery, paintings and/or furniture (known as “personal chattels”).

If you have young children then your Will should also make provision for the appointment of Guardians.

Can I make a Will or can I make amendments to my Will when I should be self-isolating?

Yes you can. Whilst face to face meetings to discuss your requirements are not possible in these unprecedented times, we are able to speak with you by using video applications such as Facetime, Whats App, Zoom or Skype.

How can I sign my Will when I should be self-isolating?

There are specific rules setting out how your Will must be signed in order to be valid. Your signature must be witnessed by two independent witnesses who are present when the Will is being signed who are not named as beneficiaries in your Will. Read our guide to assist you in arranging the signing and witnessing of your Will.

What are some of the common mistakes people make when drawing up a Will?

Common mistakes might include not making adequate provision for someone or making provision that causes conflict between the beneficiaries after you have died. Not effectively appointing executors. Not maximising the Inheritance tax reliefs.

How regularly should it be reviewed?

Ideally a Will should be reviewed if your circumstances have changed but it is recommended that a minimum is every 4 or 5 years.

Must you always use a solicitor? What happens if you can’t afford one?

You do not need to use a solicitor to make a Will. Indeed there are plenty of Will making kits available. However, if your circumstances are not straightforward, for example, a second marriage, vulnerable children, family estrangement, discordant issues with the family or assets held abroad then it is advisable to take advice from a solicitor. You can make an informed decision about the provisions to be incorporated in the Will to ensure it is right for you and your circumstances.

How should you choose an executor? Does it have to be a family member?

An Executor should be someone who has your complete trust. It does not need to be a family member and it can be someone who is benefitting in your Will. However, the individual/individuals should be happy to take on the role and likely to be able to cope with the role when you die. You need to be satisfied the individuals you choose that will carry out that role appropriately to ensure that the wishes in your Will are adhered to.

Do you need a solicitor with specialist experience?

You should see a solicitor who is experienced in drafting Wills and ideally a member of STEP (the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) – STEP is a global professional association for practitioners who specialise in family inheritance and succession planning. You can also locate solicitors with the appropriate skills on the Law Society website.

Should you tell your family you have a Will?

A Will is a private document so it is entirely up to you whether or not you tell your family that you have drafted one or its terms. However, to ensure that there is no confusion on your death it is advisable to let your family know that you have made a Will and where the original document is held.

What happens after you’re gone (assuming you have a Will in place)?

After your death normally a member of your family or an appointed Executor will register your death with the Registrar of births, deaths and marriages. The funeral will need to be arranged (normally banks will permit the funeral invoice to be paid from any monies held in an account of the deceased). The Executors then need to ascertain what assets you held when you died, their value, deal with your income/pensions and any liabilities you may have. The Executors will probably need to apply for a Grant of Probate and then ensure that your liabilities are paid and your assets are distributed in accordance with the terms of your Will.

What happens if someone dies during the Coronavirus pandemic?

Whilst it would normally be a family member of the deceased or their appointed Executor who will register the death this might not be currently possible because of the restrictions in place. Therefore the rules have been modified so that a funeral director acting on behalf of the family may now register the death – if this is more convenient.

Registration can no longer take place with a face to face meeting. Appointments are dealt with remotely and the individual registering the death will need to contact the relevant Registrars’ Office. The Registrar will then telephone that individual to take the relevant details for the registration. Communications will be exchanged electronically.

For further information for deaths in Hampshire read the Hampshire County Council’s advice paper on registering a death.

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