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Will

What Should I Include in My Will?

29th September 2021

Most of us know we should have a Will, especially once we have children, homes, or other significant assets. However, it can seem quite daunting trying to learn where to begin and what to include. 

You probably have many questions about drafting a Will. Fortunately a solicitor can guide you through the process. However, you will need to prepare and have the correct information before we can draft your Will. 

In this article, we will demystify the process and ease the concern of what to include in your Will. We will discuss questions to consider upfront as well as how to update your Will. Having this information before meeting with a solicitor allows you to prepare everything you need before we meet. 

What Should You Prepare Before Instructing Us to Your Will?

A Will is a legal document that defines how to distribute your assets after you pass away. There are considerations as well as documentation that you need  before we can  draft your Will.  

Remember your Will can be updated whenever your circumstances in your life change. 

Before meeting with a solicitor the two most important steps to take are these:

  •  List your assets and their estimated value, as well as all debts, such as a mortgage or credit cards that you have. 
  •  Prepare a list of your beneficiaries. These beneficiaries can be family, friends or charities.

What Should You Include In Your Will?

Your Will will be used by your loved ones to distribute your estate.  Without a valid Will, your assets will be distributed according to the intestacy rules.  They define who gets your estate.  This might not be what you want..

Above all, it is crucial that your Will be legally valid and binding. Although you can create a Will without a solicitor, you leave yourself open to making mistakes that may have significant  repercussions to the distribution of your estate.

Below are the 5 most important considerations when writing your Will

#1.  Assets and Debts

It is important for your solicitor to know your assets and liabilities so that they can advise you whether your estate will pay inheritance tax and how to avoid this significant expense.  There is no inheritance tax payable between married couples.  However, if your children are due to inherit your estate,  at that point inheritance tax may be payable if it is over the taxable threshold.  We will guide you through the process and give you options to protect your estate.

Include all assets in your Will with a current valuation. ,  Periodically update the list and include any gifts you give in your lifetime.  

Assets

In short, an asset is anything of value. List and maintain a list of all assets, account numbers, passwords, etc. Assets include but are not limited to: 

  • Bank accounts
  • Retirement plans
  • Investments
  • Cash and cash equivalents
  • Safety deposit boxes
  • Real estate
  • Stocks and bonds
  • Pensions and loved ones you have nominated to benefit from them
  • Artwork, jewelry, furniture
  • Intellectual property such as royalties, copyrights, patents

Debts

Debt is anything owed.  Draft and maintain a list of all debts and their account numbers, the amount owed, etc. Debts to consider include, but are not limited to:

  • Mortgages
  • Credit cards
  • Bank overdrafts
  • Loans
  • Equity release

#2.  Distribution Of Assets

The distribution of assets is the delivery of assets to your beneficiaries

It is beneficial for you to plan what happens if any of your beneficiaries pass away before you? It is good to have substitute beneficiaries so that your estate always has beneficiaries.

If you want to set up a Life Interest Will Trust to ring-fence your assets, now is the time to do it. The purpose of ring-fencing is to keep your assets from ending up with someone you had not intended. For example, if you chose your spouse from a second marriage but do not want the assets to end up with their own children, a Life Interest Will Trust can be used to ring-fence your share of your property for your children.

Secondly, a  Life Interest Will Trust can help preserve your estate from care fees if you are a couple and the surviving partner requires care.

#3.  Charitable Donations

Your Will can include any charitable donations you would like to make.  Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors will include the charity’s name, address, and registration number to ensure the assets go to the correct charity.

#4.  Name an Executor

Be sure to include a named Executor in your Will. You may have more than one Executor but let them know and tell them what  their role will be.  It could involve a great deal of work, and they may not be interested or prepared to take on that level of responsibility. Always discuss the matter with the person you wish to appoint before your Will is drafted. It is better to find out now that they don’t wish to be named an Executor. 

#5.  Include Your Signature

For a Will to be considered valid, it needs your signature, and that of two witnesses. These witnesses should be independent and not one of the beneficiaries of the Will. We provide a Will signing service to ensure that the process is done correctly.

How Do You Update Your Will?

Your Will can and should be updated periodically. At least every three to five years. 

Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors Specialises In Wills

Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors are at the ready with an experienced team to assist you.  Contact us for more information about assistance with your Will, as well as your other legal needs for Probate, Lasting Powers of Attorney, Equity Release, and Settlement Agreements.

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Will

I Got Divorced. Should I Change My Will?

22nd September 2021

When you’re going through the emotionally draining divorce process, your mind probably isn’t on how you should update your Will. Divorce proceedings can become complicated.  It is understandable that you might forget about your Will entirely as you work towards finalising your separation. 

However, if you find yourself wondering if you should change your Will following a divorce, the answer is unequivocally yes.

There’s a mistaken yet prevalent belief that getting divorced will automatically invalidate your Will. While some changes do take place, it is important that you revisit and update your Will to reflect your wishes, going forward.

In this article, we will explain why you should always change your Will following a divorce. As experts in Wills and Trusts, we know the consequences of forgetting this crucial step and want to help you avoid making this critical mistake. 

Not Changing Your Will After Divorce Has Consequences

We advise clients to update their Will at the start of (or during) the divorce process or once it’s final. It can feel like a lot of work on top of everything else, but your lawyer can help you navigate the complexities. 

If you choose not to update your Will, there will be new complications in executing your last wishes.

Before finalising your divorce, all appointments and gifts given to your ex-spouse will remain in place, including executorship and guardianship positions. Even if you separated many years before divorcing, these clauses will remain valid unless you have a decree absolute

After you’ve received your decree absolute, however, your ex-spouse will be considered dead for the purposes of a Will.

Dying Before Finalising a Divorce

Because a divorce happens in steps, it isn’t recognised as final until you receive the decree absolute. Should you pass away before  your new Will is finalised., the law will still recognise all appointments and gifts given to your spouse in your previous Will. 

If you don’t have Will when you die, the intestacy rules will come into play but will act differently. Instead of going through your family, and if you don’t have children, the estate will go to your ex-spouse. If you have children and your estate is over £270,000, they will receive a share of your estate instead.

Therefore to avoid this complication it is crucial that you have a Will. Having a Will is the only method for ensuring your wishes are followed.

Ensure Your Future With Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors

To make sure your final wishes are recognised and honored, you need to review your Will regularly.  Ideally, this should be done every three to five years so that it reflects any changes  in your life. 

At Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors, we can help you plan your future by writing and revising your Will, obtaining Probate, drafting Lasting Power of Attorney and Equity Release. Each of these processes poses its challenges, but our firm has the expertise and compassion to help. 

Contact us to discover what we can do for your future.

Categories
Will

Why a Solicitor Should Help You Write Your Will

10th May 2021

If you’ve thought about making a Will but haven’t gotten around to it yet, you might be tempted to write it on your own. After all, there are loads of DIY-Will-writing kits widely available for anyone to use. It can’t be that hard then, can it?

Before you attempt to do it yourself, consider the worst-case scenario: If your Will isn’t written in a way that means your exact wishes are carried out, what will happen to your beneficiaries and your estate?

Why Do I Need a Solicitor for My Will?

Solicitors have the knowledge and experience to ensure that your Will is written and carried out to your exact specifications and to the letter of the law. Today, we will take a look at some of the reasons why going with an experienced solicitor is the right call for your Will.

#1. Your Will May Not Be Straightforward

Making a Will can be more complicated than most people realise, especially if you have a complicated family situation. Divorce and remarriage, custody issues, civil partnerships, and other special family situations might require very specific details within your Will.

Solicitors know the ins and outs of drafting a Will for every possible family situation. They know when things like inheritance tax or care home fees might impact your beneficiaries. 

#2. Special Situations

Do you know what happens if one of your dependents feels that they are not adequately provided for in your Will? What about if a former spouse or child from a previous marriage makes a claim on the Will?

There are some special situations that many people never consider when drafting their Will. Unfortunately, unless you know the law regarding these situations and you understand how to write your Will to cover them, it might end up being very expensive to sort out..

#3. Foreign Property

It is not uncommon for many Britons to have property abroad. You may wish to leave a foreign property to your beneficiary, but the laws in every country regarding Wills and property are different. A solicitor will ensure that you have exactly what you need to secure these assets.

#4. Planning for Inheritance Tax

If your estate exceeds the taxable amount for your particular circumstances, inheritance tax may be payable. If you have children, you could be eligible for substantial exemptions. However, if you don’t have children, your beneficiaries could pay steep inheritance taxes. A solicitor can advise you how to protect your estate.

#5. Protecting Your Estate From Care Home Fees

We can never know what the future holds. Although you may not plan for it, you might end up spending time in a care home in your later years. The costs associated with being in a care home can add up. Many people are surprised to find they are responsible for most or all of the costs themselves.

Estate planning isn’t just for what happens after you die. The events that occur during your later years in life can deplete the value of your estate if you aren’t careful. However, a solicitor can help you plan for these events to have an estate to leave behind. 

Utilising as a Life Interest Will to avoid care home fees could help you preserve your estate for your beneficiaries. They can also give you peace of mind during your later years, so you can spend them enjoying your time rather than fretting over the future.

#6. Making Sure Your Wishes Are Carried Out

If you’ve taken the time to make a Will, you want to make sure that your final wishes are carried out. 

If you make any changes to your Will, it could invalidate it if they don’t comply with the law. This includes adding a page to the document or even writing on it in any way. Any changes need to be written into a completely new Will or added as a codicil. A solicitor can do either of these for you to ensure that your Will remains valid. 

Make Sure Your Will Works For You

To ensure your estate is taken care of promptly, having a Will is the best course of action because it ensures that your estate goes to people that you have chosen.. 

Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors are at the ready with an excellent staff to assist you with your estate planning needs. Contact us for more information about assistance with your Will, as well as your other legal needs for probate, lasting powers of attorney, equity release, and settlement agreements.

Categories
Will

What Should I Do if I Have Been Named the Executor of a Will?

20th March 2021

If you’ve been named the Executor of a Will, you are likely facing a new experience that you feel unprepared for. 

The Executor is responsible for paying off any debts or liabilities the deceased had accumulated and is responsible for distributing assets from the estate to the beneficiaries under the Will. You might be wondering what you should do if you’ve been named the executor of a Will, and it’s understandable if you’re a bit worried about it.

Proving a Will (obtaining the grant of probate for a person who has died leaving a Will) is highly challenging, especially if you’ve never been responsible for something like this before. You may feel overwhelmed trying to balance all of the tasks expected of you as the Executor, and you might not know where to start. However, lack of experience doesn’t mean that it will be very difficult for you to fulfill your role. 

It’s common to worry about whether or not you will follow the deceased’s wishes properly, but with a few steps, you can ease that anxiety and take on the challenge with a clear direction. 

We’ve put together this article to help you identify what challenges you may face as an Executor of a Will and how to approach every one of them. Here are a few things you should do if you’ve been named Executor.

What is an Executor? 

An Executor is somebody named in the Will who has the responsibilities of handling property, money, possessions and debts of a person who has passed away. While it might sound simple, the Executor is responsible for finding out the assets, paying any debts and distributing whatever remains according to the wishes of the dearly departed. 

In most cases, the Executor is a relative or close friend of the deceased, which means that they are usually also mourning a loss while handling the emotional and physical responsibilities that the Executorship position entails. 

Sometimes, a professional is appointed as Executor, such as a solicitor. Usually, this is done in cases where a person has complicated affairs and there is a need to have an expert involved very early in the administration of the estate. 

Hiring a professional is also sometimes used in situations where there is potential conflict  within the family. The professional could save the family the potential for disputes to arise as to how the estate should be administered.  This in turn would save the estate money because there wouldn’t be the need to go to court unnecessarily. 

Suppose a family decides that a professional who the deceased previously hired is not needed,  in that case, the professional can be asked to renounce to allow the family to administer the estate   themselves. 

What to Do if You Don’t Want To Be An Executor 

Legally you are not forced to take on the responsibility of an Executorship. Maybe you don’t have time,  you’re facing a health crisis or your emotional state is simply too extreme. In these cases, you can sign what is called a Deed of Renunciation. Here in England and Wales, this cancels your status as an Executor and allows the other named Executors to administer the estate of the dearly departed. 

If there are no other named Executors in the Will, the beneficiaries entitled to the estate can apply for Letters of Administration with the Will attached.

Renouncing your role as Executor should be done as soon as physically possible before you’re involved in the process of handling the deceased’s estate. Things can get complicated quickly if you’ve already been engaged and then wish to back out. 

Your First Step After Being Named the Executor of a Will 

If you’ve decided to continue serving as the Executor of a Will, the first thing you should do is understand what responsibilities you will have with this position. 

Some of these are:

  • Identify all assets of the estate and value them
  • Identify any debts and liabilities
  • Complete inheritance tax forms
  • Apply for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration 
  • Pay for funeral costs
  • Pay off debts 
  • Distribute the estate according to the deceased’s wishes. 
  • Draft estate accounts to show all the monies that were received, any debts and liabilities paid together with the distributions to the beneficiaries

Those in charge of an estate may  also be responsible for acting as Trustees for children under 18, if any or if a Trust arises as a result of the Will. For example, if the deceased left a child a large sum of money, the Trustee is responsible for protecting and ensuring that the money grows until the child is 18.

The executor is responsible, in short, for collecting, valuing, paying off and distributing all assets of the deceased. You may need to contact external companies for situations such as valuing property or tracking down all potential debts a person had. 

What If Something Goes Wrong? 

You can be personally liable if there are losses to the beneficiaries or creditors. If you could have reasonably avoided a late fee on a debt, for example, you would be responsible for the cost of late payment. 

Executors are always advised to place Section 27 adverts in the National Gazette and in the local paper to notify any potential unknown beneficiaries or creditors. This protects them from any liability in this respect.

Let Us Help 

At Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors, we can help you navigate your new position as Executor of a loved one’s estate.  Our probate services can help you finalise the affairs of someone who has recently passed and help take some of the pressure off your shoulders as the executor of the will. 

We know how vital kind and sympathetic services are for you as you’re struggling with the loss of a loved one, and our team is prepared to help you every step of the way. 

Reach out to us and let’s talk. Let us help you ease some of the burdens that come with a loved one’s passing.