Below you will find answers to some frequently asked questions about making a Will:
- What happens if I die without a Will?
- Is it necessary for both spouses to make their own Wills?
- Appointing Executors for my Will
- Should I appoint guardians for my children?
- Who can I ask to witness my Will?
- Can I specify a gift to go to a particular project?
- What is a Letter of Wishes?
If you do not manage to make a Will during your lifetime, your property will be distributed according to the current law of intestacy (the Administration of Estates Act).
If you die intestate, regardless of your wishes, your spouse or registered civil partner will not automatically inherit your entire estate. Some of it may go to other relatives.
There is no provision for unmarried partners, who do not have an automatic entitlement to any part of the estate even though you may have been co-habiting prior to your death.
Yes, it is necessary for both spouses or partners to make Wills.
It is common for couples to write similar or identical Wills ('mirror Wills'), which ensures that the surviving partner will be looked after.
The Law Society can help you find a solicitor in your area, so please visit their website to search for one now. Alternatively, please contact us on 0207 841 7257 and we will help you find a solicitor in your area.
Unfortunately we are not able to recommend solicitors. The main reason for this is that anyone seeking to make a Will should obtain independent advice, without any suggestion that another 'interested' party has brought any influence to bear.
An Executor can be a family member or friend, professional advisors (such as solicitors or accountants) or a bank. A Will usually appoints two or more Executors, so that if one Executor wishes to renounce his or her executorship there will be another executor to act. It is worth bearing in mind that the role of an Executor can be complicated and time-consuming. It is advisable, therefore, to consider a professional as well as a 'lay' Executor such as a friend of family member, and to discuss what is involved with your intended Executors before making your Will.
An Executor's duty is to deal with your assets and liabilities and implement your wishes under the terms of your Will. Depending on your individual circumstances, an Executor may take on a range of responsibilities from arranging your funeral to dealing with your financial affairs (collecting in assets and paying any debts of the estate), applying for probate, distributing the estate to the beneficiaries and submitting tax returns. For further information and useful information, please refer to the Inland Revenue's website
If your children are still under the age of 18, it is very important that you consider who might take care of them in a worst-case scenario. A child's surviving parent is normally automatically guardian on the death of one parent (provided the surviving parent has 'parental responsibility' under the Children Act 1989). It is possible to appoint guardians who will only act if both parents die while the children are under the age of 18. A guardian will have to assume responsibility for decisions affecting your children's day-to-day care - they do not automatically assume day-to-day care themselves - so it is imperative that you seek consent before appointing a person as guardian.
Under 18s can inherit although any money or funds left to children will be held in trust until they reach the age of 18. Alternatively, the Will can stipulate that any child beneficiaries are only entitled to the income from the trust fund when they reach 18 - the capital can be held in trust until a later stage.
If you visit a solicitor to have your Will drawn up, they will usually provide witnesses. However, if you decide to execute a home-made Will, you should arrange for two adult witnesses, and they should print their full names addresses and occupations below their signatures. A beneficiary cannot witness a Will nor should either witness be closely related to a beneficiary, otherwise this will invalidate the gift.
The Children's Society is always grateful for legacy gifts and we like to know why our supporters choose to remember us in their Wills and whether they had any connection with the charity. However, conditions written into the Will which specify a particular project or area may create problems in the future. In some instances, we have been prevented from benefiting from a generous legacy because a specific project has closed down or location has changed.
In all cases, we try our utmost to honour the wishes of those who leave us legacies. You might consider stating in your Will that if the condition you have specified cannot reasonably be met by The Children's Society, then rather than the legacy failing, The Children's Society could work with your Executors to find a suitable use for the legacy. Alternatively, if you write a side letter to your Will which sets out any wishes for how you would like the legacy to be applied, we can find the most appropriate purpose for the gift.
A Letter of Wishes is a document that should be kept with your Will. It is not legally binding and is a lovely way of setting out your personal wishes, such as arrangements you would like for your funeral service or details of funeral plans already in place. This can also take a lot of worry away from those who would be organising your funeral.
If you have a comment, complaint or query not answered above, please contact Jonathan Gocher via email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0207 841 7257.