Many people find the very thought of writing a Will overwhelming. Not only do we not like thinking about growing older and what happens after we’re gone, we naturally assume Will writing is difficult, complicated and expensive.
Depending on individual circumstances, it needn’t be any of those things. It helps, though, to approach Will writing in a logical and step-by-step fashion. Realising how the law works with regard to inheritance can also help with motivation to get it done.
Here, then, are some tips about getting started and what parents, in particular, need to understand about Wills and the law:
Getting Started – Take Stock of Possessions
Writing a Will is a lot easier when everything you own is written down in one document. Like an inventory, it can help concentrate the mind and decide how you’ll divide your estate between family and friends when the time comes.
Remember your estate extends far beyond the items you can pick up. Be sure to include everything:
- Property at home and overseas
- Stocks, bonds, or investments
- Savings, including online bank accounts
Don’t forget your digital estate, which often has a value far beyond money. When people are taking stock of what they own, these types of possessions often get left out:
Social media accounts – someone needs to take over ownership to preserve the content. Over the years, a comprehensive record of life, including photographs and cherished messages, builds up. Like diaries from previous generations, these accounts can give comfort to those left behind and have a social as well as sentimental value.
Bitcoins and gaming characters can also have value. Make sure people know where to find them and how to gain access.
It’s also possible your family will want accounts closing or deactivating. Twitter accounts, for instance, may have no value to relatives. Leave instructions in your Will so your executors can easily close accounts if they wish.
Choosing Your Will Writing Method
Main ways to write a Will include:
- A solicitor – if friends and family can’t recommend one, and you don’t have one already, the Law Society website has a ‘find a solicitor’ section where you can search for one local to you.
- A Will Writing Service – these are not regulated so there are few safeguards if anything goes wrong, as they’re exempt from the complaints handling body. Look for a service with membership to the Institute of Professional Will Writers which has a code of practice approved by the Trading Standards Institute.
- A DIY Template – these are readily available in the High Street but are risky if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you decide to do it yourself, get it checked by a legal professional so you know everything is included and properly worded.
When writing your Will and choosing two witnesses, remember they can’t be people who are mentioned in your Will. Even a small bequest disqualifies anyone from acting as a witness.
Know How Stepchildren Are Affected
Modern extended families often include stepchildren, but parents don’t always realise they’re treated differently in law when it comes to inheritance. If you don’t make a Will and name your stepchildren, they won’t be included in any share of your estate. It’s vital they’re named in a Will so they’re fairly treated.
Set Up Trusts and Choose Guardians
A Will allows you to appoint legal guardians for minor children. Knowing your children will be well cared for should the worst happen brings great peace of mind. Without a Will you can never be completely sure your wishes will be carried out.
Another benefit for children is that you can arrange for help with their financial support until they inherit – which they can’t do until they’re 18 – and set up trusts if you feel this would help them cope once they do inherit.
Providing for children is one of the main reasons parents should make a Will. The rules of intestacy (that apply if you don’t make a Will) don’t always work in a family’s favour, and the people you think will inherit often don’t.
Making a Will means you take control, during your life and beyond. It’s well worth the small effort for the long-term peace of mind it brings.