When people start to think about writing their Will, their first thoughts are usually about who will be the beneficiaries – who will inherit their property, savings, and other financial assets.
But there are many other things to consider when it comes to what you want to happen when you die. Here’s a list of 7 things that you should think about when preparing to write your Will:
1. What would you like to happen at your funeral?
There are lots of decisions to make when organising a funeral. You may not have thought about it before, or you might have very specific ideas as to what you want. Often, these decisions are left up to family members, but it will be easier for them if they know your wishes. It means they don’t have to worry about getting it right and could help to prevent any arguments.
Think about details such as whether you want to be buried, and where, or if you want to be cremated, what you would like to happen to your ashes. If you’re eco-conscious you might even be considering a water cremation, a new option recently launched in the UK.
You can also write down details such as what music you’d like at the service, and any readings or flowers you like. Maybe you have an idea as to who you would like to lead the service or who your preferred funeral director is – if you have one. It’s worth noting that your funeral wishes are not legally binding, and sometimes funerals are arranged before a Will is located or reviewed, so it’s important to give your family a copy of your funeral wishes once you’ve prepared them.
Many people choose to draft their funeral wishes to avoid any worry or confusion for their family and friends at a difficult time.
2. Do you need to make arrangements for your children?
If you have children under the age of 18 then you’ll need to make plans for their care. You should think about who could act as legal guardians in the event of both parents’ deaths and how you can plan for their future.
This will involve selecting legal guardians who will be responsible for your children’s care. Make sure you talk to your potential guardians beforehand to check they would be happy and able to take on the care of your children in the event of the worst happening,
To protect your children’s inheritance, you may want to consider placing certain assets in a trust. There are lots of different types of trusts, but one of the most common is to place assets such as property or money into a trust that your children can access at a certain age. You will need to appoint trustees to manage the trust up until this point.
3. What about your family business?
If you run a family business there may be lots of people who rely on it continuing after your death including employees, suppliers, family members, and customers. You will need to have conversations with your family when deciding what will happen to your family business. This can sometimes be challenging if some family members are more involved in the business than others.
In our experience, farms are often particularly difficult. It may have been in the family for many generations so holds an emotional value as well as a financial one. But you must not avoid making plans just because it’s difficult. By discussing your succession plans for your business in advance and the reasons behind them with your family, you can help to avoid any future family fallouts and hurt feelings, and protect the future success of your business.
Talk to your solicitor about your business when they are drafting your Will. They can offer advice on how to best protect it after your death.
4. Who should take care of your pets?
In England, your furry friends will be treated as part of your estate – no different from any property you own.
Like many people, you may consider your pets to be a part of your family and want to make sure they’re taken care of after you’re gone. But in the eyes of the law, pets are considered property, and they cannot be beneficiaries of your estate.
If you have strong feelings as to who you want to look after your pet and if you want to make provisions for their continued care, you can name this individual in your Will as a beneficiary.
5. What charities would you like to donate to?
Lots of brilliant charities rely on donations from people’s estates to continue to do the great work that they do. If there is a charity that is particularly close to your heart, then you can leave a gift to a charity in your Will.
You could specify a particular amount, or you can also specify that you would like whatever is leftover after other gifts have been made and liabilities have been met. This is called your ‘residuary estate’. As long as your chosen charities have Charity Reference Numbers, these donations will usually be exempt from tax.
6. Who should your executors be?
An executor is a person who will be legally responsible for administering your estate after your death. This will involve passing on any assets to your chosen beneficiaries and paying any taxes due.
You’ll want to pick individuals that you trust, and who can take on the responsibility. They are often beneficiaries of the estate but they don’t have to be. You can pick more than one person to be your executor, and it’s sensible to ask them first to check that they are happy to do it.
You do have the choice of nominating a professional executor if no one suitable is available. This is a sensible option if you think there may be arguments between family members. Appointing siblings that do not get along well to be joint executors is a common occurrence – but this is not a good idea as it can lead to lengthy and expensive disputes.
7. What are the reasons behind the decisions you’ve made?
An ‘expression of wishes’ or ‘letter of wishes’ is a document that is kept with your Will, and can also be given to your executors in advance. Its purpose is to explain the choices you have made without your Will and why you have chosen to distribute your estate in this way. It’s not legally binding, but it does provide some additional guidance to your executors and will help them to carry out your wishes.
Your Will may become a public document during the probate process but a letter of wishes is a private and personal document for your executors and trustees.
Talk to us
Everyone knows that getting your affairs in order is important, so why does it so often end up at the bottom of the to-do list? Making a Will gives you the peace of mind of knowing that your loved ones will be protected from unnecessary heartbreak and uncertainty upon your death.
Our expert legal advisors are friendly and approachable and will be at your side to guide you every step of the way. Get in touch to make your Will appointment today.