How making a will can help give someone peace of mind

None of us like to dwell too much on what happens after we’re gone, and the impact it will have on family and friends. But the fact is, we all get older, and it can make things a lot easier for everyone around you if preparations have been made for when the time comes.

Making a will is one of the most straightforward and practical ways to secure your assets, and decide what happens to them once you pass. Making a will isn’t strictly reserved for the elderly either, and it’s wise to make one as a precaution if you have children, or if you simply want to decide how your property and possessions will be divided amongst close relatives. Again, it’s not something we like to think about, but accidents can happen at any age, so making a will can ensure you’re covered for any situation.

If you want to know more about the different types of will, how to make one, and the many ways it can give you and your loved ones peace of mind; then read on for our handy guide below.

What is a will?

Also called a testament, a will is a legal document drawn up by an individual (the testator), outlining how they would like their property, money and possessions to be divided up following their death. If an individual dies without having made a will, then the estate will be divided up in accordance with the law.

Most wills will also name one or more people as the executor of the state; this is who will manage affairs and ensure that everything is divided up in accordance with the will. There are several different types of will that we will discuss in more detail, below.

Single will

This is the format that most people imagine when they think of a will, and is drawn up by one individual to record their wishes for the distribution of their estate. You can make a single will if you are single, married, or in any other sort of partnership, but some married couples choose to make mirror wills instead (see below for more information).

Mirror wills

This type of will is designed for couples who have almost identical wishes for how they want their assets to be divided. Two separate documents will still be produced, but the contents of the wills ‘mirror’ each other when it comes to important financial decisions (e.g who will get ownership of your house).

You do not have to be married or in a civil partnership to make a mirror will, and many long term unmarried couples choose this option as it’s more cost effective. This type of will offers some flexibility on personal decisions such as funeral arrangements, and it’s important to note that the wills can still be changed without the other partner’s awareness or permission.

Property trust will

This type of will lets you create what’s known as a Trust to look after any property (or shares in property) that you own. You will also appoint someone to manage this Trust (known as a trustee), who manages the property on behalf of a third person (the beneficiary). Many couples use this type of will to protect their property assets and ensure they can be passed down to children or grandchildren, while allowing the trustee to benefit during their lifetime (e.g by living in the property).

In most cases, the trustee (usually the spouse of the deceased) has the right to benefit from any gains generated by the Trust, but once they pass, the beneficiary, (usually children or another family member) will inherit the full share as laid out in the will.

Life interest trust will

This is similar to a property trust will, but allows the will maker to include assets other than property, such as cash, or valuables like jewellery and antiques. You’ll still need to choose trustees and decide who benefits from the Trust during their lifetime, but the underlying capital is protected for the eventual beneficiary of the will.

Living will

A living will is a document which outlines the types of medical treatment and decisions you would like made on your behalf, in the event that you no longer have the capacity to communicate these decisions yourself. The decisions are legally binding, and usually include things such as; whether you want to be resuscitated, decisions about life support, and the types of drugs and medical treatment you’d like to receive.

Anyone with mental capacity over the age of 18 can make a living will, and once it has been witnessed and signed, it takes immediate effect.

How to make a will

It is possible to write a will yourself, but in most cases it’s recommended that you seek legal advice and help, especially if the terms of the will are not straightforward. To write your will, you need to set out who you want to benefit from your property, money or possessions (i.e who will they be passed onto), who will look after any children under the age of 18, who will manage your estate, and provisions in the event that any beneficiaries die before you.

It’s wise to hire a solicitor in any case to help you draft the will,but especially if there are complicated circumstances, such as owning a property overseas, if you have children from a previous marriage and have married again, if you share a property with someone who is not your partner, or if you own a business.

For your will to be legally binding, you must be over the age of 18, have made it voluntarily and in sound mind, make it in writing, and then have it signed by two witnesses over the age of 18, who must also you watch you sign it yourself. You can update or change your will at any time, but in some cases you will need to make an official alteration known as a codicil.

The benefits of making a will

We’ve touched on a few of the many benefits above, such as giving you and your loved ones peace of mind, and there are many more practical and emotional benefits that come with making a will, including:

Dividing your estate according to your wishes

The main reason most people make a will is simply so they have complete control over their estate, and who gets what following their passing. As stated, if no will is made then the estate is simply divided according to the law (it usually passes in its entirety to a spouse or child), but of course you may wish to divide things differently.

A will ensures you can leave exactly what you choose, to who you choose, and it prevents any difficult family arguments regarding who ‘should’ get what if one person inherits everything due to the lack of a will.

Reduced inheritance tax

Making a will can often reduce the amount of inheritance tax that your beneficiaries have to pay. This can be done by setting up trusts, careful transfer of assets and reviewing the terms of your existing will to make sure you won’t get stung by being above the inheritance tax bracket.

Providing for loved ones

It’s natural to worry about those we leave behind after we die, but making a will can ensure that your loved ones have some practical help once you’re gone. Whether it’s leaving money, property or sentimental items, drawing up a will gives you the peace of mind that your friends and family will be taken care of, and have something to remember you by.

Protecting your estate from being contested

The 1965 Succession Act allows certain individuals to make a claim on a person’s estate if no will has been left; even if that person had not intended to leave them any money or assets. Making a solid will ensures that no such contests can be made, and you can rest assured that you’re property, money and possessions only go to who you choose.

If you’ve decided the time has come to make, or update, your will, get in touch with the professional team at Naughton’s Solicitors. We’re on hand to provide you with all the advice you need to draft a will that is both legally binding and respects your wishes in the event of your death. Our solicitors can help you every step of the way, and explain any legal jargon to ensure you fully understand what is going into your will.We also offer legal advice regarding family law, conveyancing, employment law, probate, and more; so to make an appointment or learn more about any of our services, give us a call today or visit our website.

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