Find out what you need to put in your will before you start writing it, including the guardians you want for your children, any bequests or legacies you want to leave, and any legal requirements.
What kinds of things can you leave behind in your will?
You can leave directions for your funeral, name a guardian for your children, describe who should inherit your possessions when you pass away, and set up trusts to provide for your family financially. All of these things can be done inside your will.
You also have the option of naming an executor (or many executors) who will be responsible for the administration of your estate and carrying out your final intentions.
A will is a document that is legally binding; yet, in order for it to be legitimate and enforced by a court, it needs to fulfil certain requirements.
We describe the components that must be present in your will for it to be considered legitimate, as well as the types of instructions that you can leave for your estate or your family.
Are you making a will?
You can create a will and have examine it if you are interested in receiving assistance. Wills, and if you buy one between now and the 30th of April, you get a discount of 30%.
Is your will a legal document?
There are no specific guidelines to follow when it comes to the format of your will, and in principle, you could jot it down on any old scrap of paper.
However, in order for it to be recognised as legal in England and Wales, it needs to be witnessed, signed, and dated by two people who are not related to one other. In order for it to be valid in Scotland, it needs to be signed and dated by one witness.
These witnesses are not eligible to inherit anything from your will, nor may they benefit in any way from your will (although they can act as executors).
In your will, you should also designate your executors. Executors are the people who are given the authority to collect your assets and distribute them according to your instructions. This is the procedure that is referred to as probate. One of the people who will benefit from your will could be the executor (provided they are not also a witness).
You can get additional information by reading our article on how to write a will.
Make use of our wills planner instrument.
Before you can draught a will, you need to take stock of the property and possessions you have and consider who you would prefer to inherit your fortune.
You can use our tool to lay out your intentions, which will make it easier for you to draught a will and ensure that you haven’t overlooked anything vital that you should have included.
Donations and property listed in your will
You should give careful consideration to the manner in which your belongings are to be given to members of your family, close friends, and charitable organisations while drafting your will.
When you leave assets in your will, you have the option of naming the individual or organisation that should get each asset (known as specific legacies or bequests). Specific legacies can include the obvious, such as a property, or family treasures; but, they can also be more abstract, such as a sentimental keepsake or the contents of a bank account. a property or family heirlooms.
You can also leave someone a portion of the overall worth of whatever is left over from your estate, which is referred to as the “residue,” or whatever is left over from certain assets.
In certain circumstances, you may decide that a combination of the two approaches is the best choice. For instance, if you wished to divide the funds in a bank account between two persons, you could stipulate that the first person receives £20,000 and that the second person will inherit the remainder of the funds.
It is essential that you have a solid understanding of the fact that your residual legacy consists of all that is left over not only after specific legacies have been accounted for, but also after any and all debts have been paid off, including your inheritance tax bill. There is a good chance that your particular legacies and the inheritance tax payment will cover more than your entire estate. If this is the case, then anyone specified as getting your residual estate will not receive anything from it.
When you leave money to someone in your will, you have the option of designating that the funds come from your residual estate, a specified legacy, or both.
Specifying the disposition of property in your will
In most cases, the main asset that you’ll bequeath to your heirs is your home. How you own the property affects whether or not you can leave it to a loved one in your will.
If you own the home outright, you have the option of naming a new owner in your will, and when you pass away, the title will be transferred to that individual.
It makes things more difficult if you co-own the property with another person. In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, there are two different ways that property might be held:
Your share of the property, if it is held in a joint tenancy, will automatically go to the joint tenant who is still alive after your passing if the property is held in that manner.
You are able to leave your portion of the property to another individual in your will if the property is kept in a tenancy in common arrangement. After then, they will be considered a tenant in common on your property along with the other owner.
This particular terminology is not used in Scotland. Instead, the ownership structure is documented on the title deed, and owners have the option of including a survivorship clause to specify what occurs in the event that one of the owners passes away.
If there is an outstanding mortgage on the property, your heirs will need to make new arrangements with the mortgage lender to either settle the loan or refinancing the home. If there is no outstanding mortgage on the property, your heirs will not be required to make any new arrangements.
You are able to transfer ownership of your home to another person while granting someone else a “right of residence” in it. This will enable the recipient to continue living there for a predetermined amount of time, such as until they pass away, move into an assisted living facility, or are no longer responsible for the upbringing of your children.
It is important to keep in mind that your spouse will not be required to pay inheritance tax on any assets that they inherit. In addition, the inheritance tax bill that your estate must pay could be reduced if you leave your house to a direct descendant, such as a child or grandchild. In our comprehensive guide to inheritance tax on property, we cover additional information that is available to you.
overseas real estate or other assets
If you possess property or assets in a foreign country, it is imperative that you seek legal assistance, preferably from a person who is knowledgeable with the legal system in that country. Because the laws in some countries are substantially different from those in the UK, it is possible that your will will not be recognised as legally binding in those nations.
It is against the law to disinherit your children in some countries, like France, for example. If the country in which you possess property decides that your will is not legitimate, then it is likely that the assets in question will be dispersed in accordance with the laws of intestacy that apply in that country.
Tax on legacies
In most cases, the amount of inheritance tax that is owed on assets that you bequeath will be deducted from the amount of your estate that is left over, but you have the option to request something else.
For instance, if you leave someone you care about a piece of property, you have the option of stipulating that they would be liable for paying any inheritance tax that may be owed.
Including provisions for your children in your will: inheritance tax thresholds, rates, and who is responsible for paying the tax
If you have responsibility for children under the age of 18, you should name a guardian for them in your will in the event that both of their parents pass away. In the event that you do not, the decision of who should take care of your children will be made by the family courts. It is in your best interest to contact the guardians in advance to determine whether or not they are willing to take care of your children.
You have the ability to stipulate in your will the source of the funds that will be used to take care of your children after you pass away. Trusts are the typical vehicle for accomplishing this goal.
If a kid receives an inheritance, the money or property will be held in trust for them until they reach the age of majority (or until they get married, if earlier). You have the ability to give instructions regarding the administration of the trust. In the event that you do not provide any instructions, the trust will be managed in accordance with the “trustee laws,” which delegate authority over the money to the executors.
If you have children who are now adults, the default arrangement is for them to receive their share of any bequest in its whole when they become 18 years old. Some parents may not want their children to inherit significant sums of money at such a formative age in their lives. If this is the case, you might want to think about putting some of your money into a trust that won’t disperse the funds until your children have reached a certain age or accomplished a certain goal, like getting their foot on the housing ladder.
Aside from your own children, you need to think about any other people who are financially reliant on you, such as ageing parents or disabled individuals who live in your house, and make financial preparations for their care as well.
Drafting of wills for first-time parents
Leaving a bequest to one or more charitable organisations
When they die away, many individuals decide to leave a portion of their assets to a charitable organisation.
Giving money to organisations or causes that you believe in can provide other benefits as well as potential financial savings in the form of tax breaks. If you leave more than ten percent of your estate to charity, the inheritance tax rate that is applied to the remainder of your estate will be reduced from forty percent to thirty-six percent.
In order to qualify, the charity in question must hold a registration in the UK. If you leave money to an educational institution, political party, or community sports club, you are eligible for the same tax benefit.
Learn more about planning for inheritance taxes and gifting here.
The term “digital assets” also refers to internet accounts.
These days, your estate is likely going to consist of more than just your possessions and financial assets, like as money in the bank. Your physical belongings may include not only physical items but also digital ones, such as images, music, and movies that you have purchased online. You should probably decide who will take ownership of these when you’re gone.
If you have accounts on social media platforms, you have the option of asking certain persons to delete or assume control of those accounts on your behalf.
If you want your executor to be able to manage your digital assets after your death, it’s a good idea to leave them your passwords and login information. It is essential, however, not to include passwords in the will itself, as that document would become a part of the public record, which might imply that anybody can access the will. As a potential remedy, login information ought to be safeguarded in a distinct document, and your will ought to contain directions on how to access that information.
Caring for pets
There are a lot of people that treat their animals as members of their own family.
You can leave the responsibility of caring for your dogs to a specific person in your will; however, it is important to consult with that person first to be sure they are willing to accept the role before include it in your will.
You might also state any particular instructions that you have for taking care of your pet if you have them.
A multi-millionaire German Shepherd named Gunther IV is one example of a scenario in which a person has bequeathed a fortune to their animal companion, which is then held in trust by the animal. The more typical option is to appoint a caretaker and set aside money specifically for the purpose of providing for the animal’s upkeep.
Guidelines for the arrangements of your funeral
People frequently choose to include a paragraph in their will that details their wishes for their funeral and the disposal of their body. This paragraph may include information such as whether the individual would prefer to be buried or cremated, the location of where their remains should be buried or scattered, and their opinions regarding organ donation.
Because your executors are in charge of making decisions about your funeral and remains, these instructions do not have the force of law behind them. However, one’s final wishes are almost always carried out and can relieve one’s loved ones of the burden of making tough choices at a trying time.
Having said that, keep in mind that your will might not be read until after your funeral arrangements have already been made. Because of this, it could be prudent to express your preferences with a loved one whom you can trust in advance, or even with the executor of your will.