Making a Will: the process
Making a Will is vital for many reasons. It ensures that your money and other assets go to the people you want to have them after you die; it can protect children who are still minors; and it enables you to arrange your affairs to minimise the amount of inheritance tax payable from your estate.
Using a specialist Wills solicitor to draw up your Will, not only helps in the event of complex issues, such as foreign assets, or a business, or if you want to set up a Trust fund for your children, but it will also help to avoid the potential pitfalls that could occur following your passing.
The last thing you and your loved ones would want, is to receive less of your assets going to your heirs, or even the Will becoming invalid. An experienced solicitor specialising in Wills and Probate can ensure everything is exactly as it should be.
There are seven stages in creating a Will.
1. Making an enquiry
There are various ways of finding a solicitor, from searching online to walking around your local area. The Law Society offers a good starting point, as it gives information such as the accreditations the firm has received. It is particularly worth looking to see if the law firm is accredited with Lexcel – the Law Society’s legal practice quality mark for excellence in practice management and service care. Note that only 17% of all law firms in this country have been accredited with this prestigious mark.
Looking through the relevant parts of the websites should give you an idea of which solicitor is likely to suit you best. Information to look out for includes the relevance of the accreditations and the experience of the solicitor you would be dealing with. On that basis, you can then phone or fill in the online contact form to make an appointment.
2. Discussing your wishes
Your appointment will normally be at the solicitor’s office, although it is usually
possible to arrange an appointment at home, or via Skype, if you have problems getting there. When you meet the solicitor, you will be able to discuss your wishes and needs. Although the discussion may affect your decisions, it is advisable to bring various information to the meeting with you:
- An approximate breakdown of your finances, assets and interests. If you have the exact information, that is obviously better, but the important thing is for the solicitor to understand what is involved.
- The full, legal names and current addresses of anyone you wish to name as a beneficiary.
- The full, legal names and current addresses of anyone you wish to name as an executor. There will normally be one or two executors, but a complex Will may need more. You should have previously ensured these people are willing to act as executors. If you cannot think of anyone, you could ask the solicitor’s firm to act as executor on your behalf.
- Any documents the solicitor may need to consult while drafting the Will.
- A plan for how you wish to dispose of your estate.
- The full, legal names and current addresses of anyone you wish to act as legal guardians for children under 18. You should also have the consent of these people.
- Any decisions surrounding your funeral arrangements
The solicitor will talk you through these, and may point out extra steps required or suggest any improvements. For instance, they may point out that setting up a Trust for your children could substantially reduce your inheritance tax bill, or raise the issue that bequests of foreign assets may have issues with local laws.
This will be purely advice, however, and the solicitor will accept your decision, unless you are requesting something illegal or unprofessional. Once you are satisfied, the solicitor will quote the fees involved and, if accepted, will undertake to draft the Will, making a follow-up appointment. You will also need to provide confirmation of your identity.
3. Drafting your Will
The solicitor will have taken extensive notes during the meeting, and on this basis will draw up a draft Will, incorporating your decisions and the information you have supplied. Matters this is likely to specify include:
- Whom you are leaving your estate to, including specific bequests;
- Arrangements for looking after your children (including non-biological children you are responsible for) if you die before they reach 18;
- How you want your business interests managed;
- Specifications of any Trust funds you are setting up (which will require a separate process);
- Full details of executors for the Will;
- Instructions as to the disposal of your remains after death.
4. Reviewing your Will
You will receive a copy of the draft Will, normally by post, and it is important to review it in detail, since a tiny error could substantially alter the interpretation of your wishes. Remember that, once you have signed the final Will, it remains a legally binding document until and unless you make a new one.
Read it through slowly several times, stopping to consider the implications of each item, making notes about anything you wish to query or change. If you have a partner, family member or close friend you do not mind knowing the contents of your Will, you could ask them to read it and then discuss how you both interpret the provisions.
5. Making amendments
If you have any queries or wish to make changes, these should be sent back to the solicitor in writing. If you are entirely happy with the draft Will, this should be specified in writing. The solicitor will discuss any queries with you, normally by phone, and either clarify matters or agree changes.
The solicitor will then write the final Will. This will incorporate any changes you have requested.
6. Signing your Will
Once the final Will has been drawn up, you will have a further appointment to sign it. Usually witnesses can be provided by the firm but you can have your own witnesses if you wish. You would need two people and they must accompany you to the appointment, as you must sign the Will in their presence.
Anyone can act as a witness, as long as they see you sign the Will and can confirm who you are, providing it isn’t anyone mentioned in the Will.
7. Storing your Will
Once your Will is signed, it will need to be stored securely. There are various options for this. You may wish to leave it with the solicitor, whether or not they are acting as your executor. It is vital, though, that the people nominated as executors know where the Will is. If you make your Will with us, we provide you with a Wills card to pass on to your family, informing them of the location of your Will.
You can leave your Will in storage until it is required, but it would usually be sensible to review it every few years, in case any circumstances have changed. If so, you can either make a new Will or make small changes or additions to the existing one.
It is also wise to register your Will on the Certainty National Will Register so it can be easily located by your loved ones.
Our specialist Wills solicitors at Osborne Morris & Morgan can help you with all of these services. If you wish to make an appointment with a member of our Wills team, please get in touch with us today.