"The reason to make a Will is to control how your estate is divided. But it isn't just about money. Your Will is also the document in which you appoint guardians to look after your children or your dependents. The place to start is to look at what happens if you don't make a valid will (in legal terminology, if you die intestate).
The law divides your relatives into classes such as children, siblings, grandparents, and so on. All members of any class inherit in equal shares.
Once even one person has been identified in a class, then all lower priority classes are excluded. Your assets are divided among however many or few members there are of the priority class. There is an exception to this for close family as you will see below.
If a member of a class dies before you and leaves issue (children or grand children) who survive you, the issue inherit equally between them the share that their parent would have inherited had he survived you.
If anyone entitled to inherit is under the age of 18, then the inheritance is held in trust for them until they either reach the age of 18 or marry under that age.
If your spouse does not survive you by 28 days your estate is distributed as if he or she had not survived you."
"The person who carries out the testator's wishes is an executor.
A person to whom a gift is left is a beneficiary.
A person who manages a trust set up for a beneficiary is a trustee."
"Mirror Wills are very different animals from mutual Wills. The only feature they have in common is that two people are considering the words, not one person. It is possible in theory to create two wills in a single document but this would cause untold complications that we shall not discuss here.
Mirror Wills have been promoted over the last 50 or more years because they provide a respectable and professional way to offer “two for the price of one” without sounding like a supermarket offer.
It takes very little time to edit a draft Will to provide a second one for the other spouse or partner. (From here we will refer to all states of marriage and living together as “partners”). So the draftsman doubles his profit and the client has a bargain.
A mutual Will is one where both partners contractually agree to the terms of their Wills. What they agree to may in fact be mirror Wills, or they may be quite different.
In most cases one of the partners has some need for certainty and the other of them agrees to go along with the proposals. It has been rare for two people both to have a requirement for mutual wills.
The essence of mutual Wills are that each will is a two-in-one document. It is a Wwill and it is also a contract not to change that Will.
Although very few mutual Wills are made each year, they are the subject matter of a disproportionately large number of legal cases that end up before a judge."
"Before selecting the right template, you'll need to have a rough idea as to:
"Making a Will is rather like assembling flat-pack furniture, in that it looks impossibly difficult at the start, but when you have identified all the pieces, everything fits into place.
This guide will hopefully help you put together the framework (without the difficult to understand pictures that always come in the instructions for flat-pack furniture), so that when you use a template containing the legal wording, the whole document slots together with both the legal and practical effect."
"The following is a summary of what you may leave to your beneficiaries.
"You do not have to leave any property to your relatives, let alone equally among any class of relatives such as your children. But the important Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 provides that certain people can apply to the court to claim a share (or larger share than you gave) of your estate. These people are:
What a court will decide is reasonable inheritance depends upon all the circumstances of the individual case.
If you feel there may be conflict between your beneficiaries, it is very useful to place with your Will a statement (called a letter of intent) as to how you have reached your decisions.
Such a statement does not of itself defeat a claim, but may well have that effect in enabling your executors to provides reasons for your decisions whether or not a claim comes to court."
"Every self employed person has agonised over the question of what would happen to his or her business if he or she should die.
Whatever your age or stage in life, it is certain to be a worry. The question is as relevant to a 30 year old entrepreneur with two children and a hefty mortgage as it is to someone in his or her sixties who has begun to consider who will take it over. This article addresses some of the possibilities."
"Usually the reason for writing a Will is to ensure that your money and assets are passed on to the people that you want to benefit - usually relatives by blood and their families.
The law relating to Wills was enacted a long time ago, and doesn't take into account modern family situations. While it is relatively easy to make sure wealth is kept in the family, you should be aware of certain things."
"A life interest is exactly that, a beneficial interest during a lifetime, but not ownership.
To create a life interest, property is transferred to trustees who hold it according to the instructions contained in the trust deed (in this case, your will) during the life of the beneficiary.
Your will also says what you want to happen after the life beneficiary dies. That later gift is called a gift over and the people who receive it are known as the remaindermen."
"When you marry, any existing Will is automatically revoked (cancelled) and becomes no longer valid.
If you do not make a new one, then when you die the law of intestacy decides how your assets are divided. Usually, your entire estate would go to your wife, husband or civil partner.
This may not be what you want for a number of reasons. So we suggest that you either make a Will as soon as you marry, or beforehand - in anticipation.
If it is quite clear that you intend your new Will to take effect after you have married, then it will be valid once you are. To make it clear, you need to include the words 'in anticipation of marriage to [name]' or alternatively 'in contemplation of marriage to [name]'.
If your marriage is ended by a court order (like divorce or annulment) your will is not void or invalid. What happens is that any gift to your former spouse takes effect as if he or she had died on the date your decree became absolute.
That usually means the gift falls back into residue for the benefit of the residuary beneficiaries. Of course, if you had left everything to him or her, then the effect is as if you had died intestate and the rules of intestacy once again decide how your estate is distributed.
Similarly, if by your will you had appointed your spouse as an executor or trustee, the will still takes effect as if he or she had died on the date the decree became absolute.
Even if you had appointed him or her as trustee of a trust for the benefit of the children of both of you, or as a guardian of a child or children, the trust fails. That might not be what you want - although you are divorced, you may still like your ex-husband or ex-wife to be responsible for any children's trust fund.
So it is best to make a new will immediately after your divorce, especially if your spouse or civil partner was a beneficiary or a trustee.
However, because your will does not become invalid at divorce, you can make a new will at any time after separation but before divorce so that these issues do not occur. You do not have to await the decree absolute."
"Signing your Will is not rocket science. But you do have to get it right.
A Will was one of the very first legal documents. Kings and emperors were the first people to be concerned about who took over the spoils. Over a long time, systems and procedures have been refined. But today, the issues are the same as they were centuries ago.
When we make a Will, the most important worry is “Will they do what I want?”. So our legal system has evolved where you get one chance, in one document, to say what happens after you are gone. Of course you can put the word about and you can write letters to people and you can leave notes. But that would only cause confusion, conflict and discontent. So the law says it will treat just one document as your final instructions: the latest version of your Will. So that document becomes very important indeed.
So that everyone can be sure they are relying on the right document, simple rules have evolved for witnessing your intention. They are not proof against fraud. They do not totally prevent misunderstandings. But they do help everyone to be happy that regardless of whatever you write in your Will, at least they are looking at the right document.
The process of signing a Will and having witnesses confirm that they have seen you sign is called attestation."
"A Will is revoked by a later Will only to the extent that new provisions are inconsistent with it. But any confusion could motivate a 'losing' beneficiary to challenge your latest Will. This is a litigation minefield. So it is wise always to state that your new Will revokes all earlier ones. In practice, if your executors believe they have your latest Will, they are unlikely to hunt around for an earlier one which may complicate your estate.
The basic law applies no matter what you have done with your old Will or where it is stored. If you have made a more recent Will (and signed it in the presence of witnesses), the old one is no longer valid."
"Your Will is one of your most important documents. After writing it, you need to make sure you keep it in a safe place where your executors (but no-one else) can find it when they need it.
If your Will is damaged or if your executors can’t find it after your death, then your wishes might not be followed and the people that you want to inherit your possessions and money might not do so.
There is no legal requirement as to where you must register, deposit or store your will, but some places are better than others.
Wherever you decide to keep it, tell your executors where it is so that they can find it quickly after your death. Remind them every few years."
"A trust is an arrangement whereby one or more people (known as the trustees) hold property for the benefit of one or more other people (known as the beneficiaries). When the property is money or a collection of assets, it is usually referred to as a trust fund.
You can read in detail about trusts.
Trust powers are what you say your trustees can do or must do. Powers can be as wide ranging or as narrow as you want, but be careful to make sure that what you ask can be done. If it turns out that the trustees cannot do as you ask, then they may have no alternative than to ask a judge, and spend trust money on legal fees.
Trusts are used for many purposes.
If you fail to provide for a trust when the law says you must have one, the Court will set it up for you - possibly entirely against what your wishes might be.
This happens most commonly where a Will maker (known as the testator) fails to provide a trust for his or her children under 18. In this scenario, the Court appoints trustees. The powers they are given are, by default, tightly circumscribed by the Trustee Act 2000. The trustees have no alternative than to hold the property for the child or children until his or their 18th birthdays. So if you have any child beneficiaries (or could have), then you should appoint trustees and their powers yourself in your Will."
"A trustee is someone who is given legal responsibility to hold property in the best interest of or for the benefit of someone else. As the name implies the trustee acts under a trust to do what is best and to act in the interests of others (the beneficiaries) and not himself. The Law has always categorised the relationship of a trustee to a beneficiary as being one of utmost good faith."
"A Deed of Variation changes the terms set out by the testator in his Will. Whatever its date, the variation takes effect from the date of death.
There are a number of reasons why your beneficiaries might want to use a Deed of Variation:
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