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Wills Guide

Making A Will Checklist

Knowing what to include in your Will isn’t necessarily straightforward. Below we list some of the common things you need to think about before making a will.

  1. Do you have any special wishes for your funeral?
  2. Who should be your executor?
  3. Who do you want to leave an inheritance to?
  4. Do you want to exclude someone from your Will?
  5. Do you need to worry about inheritance tax?
  6. Who would you want to look after your children?
  7. Do you have property or wealth in more than one country?
  8. Are there any particular possessions you want someone to inherit?
  9. Have you considered your business interests?
  10. Should you make a power of attorney?
  11. Where should you store your Will?

1. Do You Have Any Special Wishes For Your Funeral?

You can use your Will to record any special wishes you’d like for your funeral, including what you want to happen to your body.

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2. Who Should Be Your Executor?

The “executor” is the person who sorts out your affairs once you’re gone, and distributes inheritance to your loved ones.

Before choosing an executor, it’s important that you:

  • Speak to the person you intend to be an executor, and make sure they’re happy to do it
  • Make sure your executor knows where your Will is going to be stored
  • Consider having a backup executor – in case your intended executor is unable to do it when the time comes.

The role of executor comes with a lot of responsibility – and can take up a considerable amount of time. So it’s important to choose someone you trust and know can do the job properly.

In some cases – particularly for more complex estates – it can be better to appoint a professional executor instead.

We’ve acted as professional executors for many clients and have extensive experience dealing with the challenges involved. If you appoint Irwin Mitchell as your executor, you’ll also get the benefits of our Wills Assured service.

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3. Who Do You Want To Leave An Inheritance To?

The people you leave an inheritance to are known as the “beneficiaries” of your estate. Some of the things you need to think about include:

  • Do you wish to leave an inheritance to young children or grandchildren? At what age do you want them to receive it?
  • Do you wish to leave an inheritance for a child who lacks capacity to manage their own finances?
  • How would you want your estate split if one of your intended beneficiaries dies before you?
  • Is there anyone you want to exclude from your Will?
  • Do you want to leave money to a charity?
  • After everyone else has received their inheritance, who would you want to inherit the remainder of your estate (known as the “residual beneficiary”)?

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4. Do You Want To Exclude Someone From Your Will?

You can exclude people from your Will. However, it’s important to seek legal advice to make sure your wishes will be carried out.

In some cases a person could contest your Will if they have been excluded, so it’s important to take legal advice if this is something you wish to do.

It can be useful in these circumstances to also include a Letter of Wishes with your Will. This document explains the reasons behind your decisions and can be very helpful for your executor – especially if they might need to defend a claim against your estate.

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5. Do You Need To Worry About Inheritance Tax?

The inheritance tax threshold is £325,000. If the total value of your estate exceeds this – after you take off any debts or loans you have outstanding – you’ll be liable for inheritance tax.

Married couples and civil partners are usually entitled to transfer any unused threshold between themselves. This means that on the death of the surviving partner, their estate may be able to claim a double allowance of £650,000.

There’s also an additional relief now available known as the Residence Nil Rate Band. Not everyone is entitled to this, and the rules are complex, so you should take advice.

Making lifetime gifts can be another way to minimise inheritance tax. However, if you die within seven years, any gift could still be taxable.

You can also make provision in your Will to help minimise the amount of inheritance tax.

If you’re concerned that your estate might exceed the inheritance tax threshold, it’s important to take specialist advice.

Find out more about planning for inheritance tax.

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6. Who Would You Want To Look After Your Children?

If you have young children, you can name legal guardians for them in your Will. This will give you peace of mind for the future, knowing they’ll be looked after if anything happens to you.

When considering naming guardians, it’s important that you:

  • Discuss this with them first, and make sure they are happy to do it
  • Consider having backup guardians, in case they are unable to take on this responsibility if the time comes.

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7. Do You Have Property Or Wealth In More Than One Country?

If you have property in more than one country, it’s important to plan appropriately.

You should make sure that your UK Will deals effectively with your UK assets, while ensuring your assets outside the UK are structured to work together with your UK Will to minimise your estate’s exposure to tax.

Find out more about international estate planning.

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8. Are There Any Particular Possessions You Want Someone To Inherit?

If there are particular items you want to leave to someone, you can specify this in your Will. For anyone you are leaving possessions to, you will need their full name and address.

As with any legacy you leave, you should also consider who you would want these possessions to go to, if they die before you.

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9. Have You Considered Your Business Interests?

If you are a business owner or shareholder in a private company, it’s important to consider how you want to pass your interests on. When you draft your Will, you should also address issues such as:

  • Shareholder or partnership options
  • Changing the articles of association for the company to enable the terms of your Will to be implemented
  • Introducing new partners or shareholders from within your family (possibly with different share classes or using a trust to hold their shares or interest).

Read more about wills for business owners

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10. Should You Make A Power Of Attorney?

When you make a Will you might also want to consider making a Power of Attorney, in case you lose mental capacity in later life. You can appoint an attorney to make decisions on your behalf about your finances and your healthcare.

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11. Where Should You Store Your Will?

Your Will needs to be kept somewhere that’s safe and secure, but that’s also easily accessible after your death. Our specialist storage facility makes sure your Will is kept safe from theft, fire and water damage, but your loved ones will be able to get to it quickly when they need to.

We can store your Will free of charge with our Wills Assured service.

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If you’d like more advice on what to include in your Will, call us today on 0370 1500 100 – or fill out our online form and we’ll call you back.

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