Why make a Will?

If you do not make a Will the property you leave will be distributed amongst the surviving members of your family according to general rules laid down in various Acts of Parliament.  Since they are general rules it is unlikely, unless you have a small estate, that those general rules will either ensure that your property is given to the people you wish to receive it or minimise tax payments.

The following are very briefly the factors you should bear in mind when deciding whether or not to make a Will:-

  • Inheritance Tax: 

Safeguards can be built into Wills to ensure that on death children and other beneficiaries do not pay unnecessary tax.  In addition, for estates valued at more than £325,000 it may be possible to take steps to reduce or eliminate the payment of Inheritance Tax completely.

  • Family Beneficiaries: 

When you make a Will you decide where your property goes on your death.  The rules of intestacy mean that not all of a husband's property may pass to his wife on his death nor vice versa.  This could mean that a wife, for instance, might not get the benefit of life assurance policies taken out by her husband for the very purpose of ensuring that she has enough money to live on.  In extreme cases it might involve the sale of the family home.  In some circumstances, without a will, the death of more than one person close together might result in property passing out of the immediate family altogether.

  • Non Family Beneficiaries: 

The rules on intestacy mean that in the absence of a Will, a person who is not a member of your family (wife/husband, children, parents, etc.,) cannot benefit from your estate. Unmarried partners receive nothing and neither would step children, friends, charities, etc.  A person who is dependant upon you for financial support may have to commence legal proceedings to obtain any benefit from your estate.

If you wish a person who is not a member of your family to benefit from your Will, or wish to make a donation to a charity, a football club or other body you can only do this by making a Will.  In the absence of family your property would pass to the Crown.

  • Administration of your Estate: 

After you die it is necessary for somebody to gather together your property, arrange for the payment of any debts and then distribute the property amongst the beneficiaries.  This process can be more complicated in the absence of a Will and you will have no say in who is to undertake the task.  In your Will you can ensure that you appoint executors who will carry out your wishes and also, perhaps, relieve your immediate family of an unnecessary burden at a very difficult time.

 

Your Will

Standard Will forms are available from most good stationers and can be used quite safely for small uncomplicated estates provided the directions on these are followed precisely.  For estates of any size involving property, large insurances, businesses and or the possibility of inheritance by children we would strongly recommend an individually prepared Will. Parker Arrenberg are, however, able to prepare Wills for people with small and uncomplicated or large complex estates and can, of course, advise on the Inheritance Tax planning aspects of a Will.  If you have children or other beneficiaries under the age of 18 or wish to safeguard any inheritance until they are older then any gifts to them will have to be held in a "Trust".  We can advise on the most appropriate way of establishing and administering such trusts.

Where property is involved then Parker Arrenberg are able to advise on and assist with any necessary property transfers and where you wish to set up special trusts (e.g., for a person to live in a house during their lifetime and on their death for the property to pass to some other specified person) we can also advise and prepare the necessary provisions for the Will.

 

How much does it cost?

The cost of making a will depends upon the complexity of the estate involved and the directions that have to be included in the Will.  In straightforward cases, not requiring business provisions,  tax saving or other advice and trusts, a Will can be prepared for one person for about £125 (plus VAT) and for a couple living together for £175 (plus VAT).  We are happy to quote the costs involved in advising on, drafting and establishing trusts. 

We have safe storage facilities and can look after your Will for you at no cost.  It is an important document which should be kept secure and safe.  (Note: Our deeds storage service is available to existing clients who wish us to look after their Wills even though not prepared by ourselves - please feel free to avail yourself of the facility - a lost Will causes considerable inconvenience and distress at a time when families and friends least need it).

 

Making your Will

If you would like Parker Arrenberg to prepare a Will for you please make an appointment to see one of our lawyers. If you find it difficult to visit our office we can take your initial instructions over the telephone but we will need to meet with you at some point to ensure that we have accurate instructions.  If you are unable to travel we can make arrangements to see you in your home but there will be an additional cost involved.

 

Changing your Will

There are specific rules that need to be followed exactly when a Will is first made and when it is changed.  Amendments that are made without following those rules will not be effective. You should review your Will periodically and certainly whenever there are major changes in your life, e.g., you have children, purchase expensive property, take out large life assurance policies or inherit money.  You must review the arrangement you have made when you marry, separate or divorce since on marriage earlier Wills are generally revoked.  On divorce gifts to a former spouse are of no effect.  Just as importantly events beyond your control may necessitate a revision to your will, e.g., tax changes or simply the increase in value of your property.

 

Beneficiaries 

Before your appointment with us think about who you wish your estate to go to on your death - particularly if you wish to make specific gifts of money or special items.  You may already have a clear idea how you wish individual beneficiaries to benefit under your Will but we can advise how you should structure the arrangements and how to make alternative arrangements if, for instance, a proposed beneficiary dies before you do.  Please make sure that you do have the full names of any person who you wish to benefit under your Will and their current address.

 

Trustees and Executors

You will need to appoint Executors to administer your Will (i.e. to collect together all of your assets, arrange for the sale of any property, deal with insurance companies and pension schemes; pay off any debts you owe, settle outstanding income tax, calculate and pay any inheritance tax; and distribute the proceeds to the beneficiaries in accordance with your instructions).

If there are any Trusts set up in the Will, i.e., for children, you will also need to appoint Trustees to administer investments of the Trust.

As part of its probate service, Parker Arrenberg, are willing to act as executors and/or trustees for any client.  Most people, however, wish to appoint a friend or relative to carry out this task either on their own (although you always need at least two trustees) or jointly with Parker Arrenberg. Parker Arrenberg  can, of course, advise on the formal and legal aspects of administering an estate or trust whether or not they are appointed as executors.

 

Power of Attorney  

At the same time as you prepare a Will you should consider whether you need to make a Lasting Power of Attorney.  This is a special form that authorises another person (your wife or husband perhaps) to manage your affairs should you ever become incapable of doing so e.g. through old age, dementia or simply the result of an accident.  Please ask for our information leaflet on Powers of Attorney.