The Team

I've decided to make my Will - where do I start?
I've decided to make my Will - where do I start?

Sometimes clients ask us what they need to do to make their Will. In this article, we’ll outline the essential elements that make up a Will. There are, of course, instances where complex clauses need to be included. However, most Wills are very straight forward and set out what you want to happen after you’ve gone.


To start off, you need to decide who you want to administer your estate. This person is called your executor and it’s prudent to appoint someone who’s likely to be around after you’ve passed away. It’s also prudent to appoint more than one executor – just in case one of them should die before you do.


Your executor needs to follow the instructions contained in your Will. They need to deal with those instructions quickly and efficiently to ensure your estate is delivered to those you intend it to be delivered to.


Once you’ve decided on your executor, the next stage is to list all of the property you own – your assets -and the debts you currently have – your liabilities. For instance, do you own a house? Is this house in your name or in joint names with someone else. Do you have any money in the bank or any insurance or pension policies? Do you own a business or have stocks and shares. Are there any valuable items of jewellery, artwork or antiques that you wish to leave to anyone in particular?


On the liabilities side, is your house subject to a mortgage? Do you have any bank loans, an overdraft of outstanding balances on credit cards? Have you borrowed money from friends or family that needs to be paid back? What other liabilities do you have?


We appreciate that these are likely to change over the years, but it pays to consider the position now and set down what you’d like done should you pass away unexpectedly. You can always make changes to your Will should your material circumstances change in the future.


Now that you’ve listed your assets and liabilities, you need to decide who gets what and how your debts should be dealt with. Listing your assets and liabilities will also provide some clarity around whether there are any likely Inheritance Tax issues in relation to your estate.


Before we start to delve into setting out who should receive what, we should point out that it’s important to consider you personal circumstances. Are you married or in a civil partnership? Do you live with someone but aren’t married to them? Do you have children with your partner or from a previous relationship. The reason we ask you to consider these questions is that children are entitled to Legal Rights in their parent’s estate. These apply whether you make a Will or not. We will, of course, explain all about these when you instruct is to prepare your Will.


It is also very important to be aware that if you live with someone but are not married to them and don’t make a Will, they have no automatic entitlement to anything from your estate.


You now need to think about the distribution of your estate. For instance, what do you want to do about your house? This isn’t always as simple and straight forward as you might imagine and there may be something in the title to your house (if it’s in joint names) called a survivorship destination that prevents you from leaving your share in the house to someone else. We’ll discuss this with you and deal with any survivorship issues contained in your title.


You should then decide if you wish to leave any sums of money or items to individuals or organisations. It’s not unusual nowadays for people to leave a sum of money to a charity or charities. These things are called legacies or bequests.


Finally, once you’ve dealt with specific items, there’s the remainder of your estate. Lawyers call this the “residue” of your estate. Essentially, this is everything else in your estate that isn’t specifically covered elsewhere. You need to include a clause dealing with the residue of your estate otherwise, that part of your estate will be intestate and will need to be dealt with through the courts and to follow the law of succession.


Having dealt with the monetary aspects of your estate, you might wish to give consideration to other things. For instance, if you have young children, who would you wish to look after them should you die before they become adults?


If you own property abroad, have you made provision for that property in the country where the property is located? You should be aware, that different succession laws apply in different countries so it pays to have a Will to deal with the property located in that country.


Have you any specific wishes about your funeral arrangements? For instance, do you wish to be buried or cremated?


We would also recommend that you discuss your proposals with your family. If they are aware of the position and understand what you’re trying to achieve, there’s much greater chance of clarity and understanding. They don’t have to be happy with your decisions, but they will be bound by them.


We recommend that all out clients should have a Will and, if you’re reading this article, we would urge you to do get in touch with us today to start the ball rolling.