Do you ever have that nagging feeling in your mind that you’ve forgotten to do something? You’re thinking about the future, but you just can’t put your finger on it? Then it comes to you – you haven’t provided for your loved ones for after you go and it’s left you with that feeling of having missed something. If you want to get back that peace of mind feeling, why not prepare or review your Will?
We meet many clients who want to prepare or review their Will and some of them don’t really understand how their Will is made up. It’s our job to take you through the process, explain those misconceptions and make sure your Will reflects what you want to do.
Your Will should be straight-forward so we thought it would be a good idea to take you through the process and look at what you need.
You must appoint someone to manage the process of winding up your estate. That person is called an executor. You can appoint one of more people as executors and you can decide whether they act jointly or whether one executor replaces another should one of them die before you.
When you’ve decided who you want to appoint as executor, you’re then ready to deal with your property – the assets and liabilities you own at the time of your death.
Assets and Liabilities
The biggest asset people tend to own is their house. Sometimes the title is in your name, sometimes it’s in joint names with, say, your spouse or your partner. Do you have savings accounts with your Bank? What about insurance policies or pensions or shares in companies? Do you have any valuable jewellery or, maybe, some antique furniture or artwork? What if you own a business – if you do, is it all yours or is it a share in the business?
You need to make a list of all your assets so they’re clear to you and help give you an idea of their value.
Next, you need to consider liabilities. Do you have a mortgage? Do you have other loans or financial obligations? Again, write these down.
You can then do the sums and work out how much your net estate is currently worth when you take the liabilities away from the assets.
Yes, we completely appreciate that this is a very “fluid” situation. We know the value of assets can go up or down as can the value of liabilities. However, this plan is to begin thinking about your assets and liabilities to prepare you for setting down what you’d like to do about them. It’ll help you understand what you might want to happen to them after you’ve passed away.
What would you like to leave and to whom?
Now that you’ve made up your list of assets and liabilities, you can decide how you want to deal with them.
One of the key things you have to look at is your relationship with your spouse or partner and whether you’re married or cohabiting. It’s also important to consider the position of your children – whether they are children from your marriage or relationship or whether they’re from a previous relationship. The reason for this is that there are entitlements called Legal Rights that a spouse, civil partner and children have that are not available to an unmarried partner. We will explain what this means to you once we know the makeup of your current relationships.
Legacies and Bequests
You might decide to leave specific property or sums of money to individuals or organisations, such as charities. Lawyers call these things legacies and bequests.
If you would like to leave a sum of money or an item to charity, it’s a good idea to name the actual charity and specify exactly how much or which asset they are to receive. You might also make additional provisions in the event of that charity no longer being in existence at the time of your death.
You should take the same steps if you wish to leave a sum of money or an item to an individual and, again, perhaps, think about what should happen to it should they die before you do.
If you own a house
There are a number of things to consider if you own or part own a house. This can be complicated.
First of all, is the house in your name alone? If it is, you can decide what you’d like to do with it. If it’s in joint names, we’ll need to check the title. The reason for this is that if the title contains something called a survivorship destination, should you die first, ownership of your share in the title to the house will be immediately and automatically transferred into the name of the survivor. However, if the house is in joint names but there is no survivorship destination, your share in the house will form part of your estate. This is a very technical area and once we know the structure of the title, we will explain your options.
You need to think about what you’d like to happen to the house or your share in it. If you own it outright but are married or have a partner, do you want the ownership to transfer to them? Alternatively, would you like them to be able to continue living in the house but with the title being transferred into the names of your children – or to be sold once your spouse or partner becomes incapacitated or passes away?
We’ll go through all the options with you and explain these to you to enable you to decide which option suits you best.
The remaining items in your estate that are not specifically mentioned are collectively called the “residue”. It’s very important to cover this because sometimes it can be very substantial.
You should decide how your residue is to be dealt with. Do you want to leave it to one person or do you want it divided amongst a number of people? You can do that by leaving percentages of the revenue to people or to groups or categories of people e.g., grandchildren may receive a percentage share of the residue.
It’s important to make sure the percentages add up to 100% and that provision is made for what should happen if one of the individuals or categories should have predeceased you.
Dealing with young children
If you have young children and they’re not capable of looking after themselves, you need to think about who will look after them either if you’re looking after them on your own or should you and your spouse or partner pass away at the same time, who you would want to look after them should such an event come to pass.
Some other things to think about
Do you own any property abroad? Have you made a Will to deal with the property in the country it’s located? Different laws of succession apply in different countries and it’s very important to make sure you deal with foreign property in accordance with those laws.
What do you want to do about funeral arrangements? Would you prefer a burial to a cremation and would you like to leave any specific instructions about your funeral?
Finally, we always recommend that you discuss your proposals with your family. It’s always very helpful if they are aware of your wishes and understand what you’re trying to achieve. They might not always be happy with what you propose but if you have made them aware of your wishes, it might prevent arguments and upset after you die.
Do you want to prepare or review your Will?
We’re sure you’ll want to give yourself some peace of mind, knowing that your loved ones will be properly looked after once you’ve passed away. The only way to properly do that is to prepare your Will.
We could encourage you to consider this carefully and give us a call today to get the ball rolling.