All at Clarity Simplicity Limited hope that everyone is doing their very best to keep safe and keep well at these trying times.
This article is all about answering key questions that so many of you out there are asking us about how to make a Will and more specifically ‘how can it be done at these most extreme of social distancing times?’
I only hope that the following will help you understand the aspects of the things that you need to think about before making a Will very generally and also to place you in comfort that it is absolutely possible to prepare your Will even whilst abiding by the current social distancing requirements.
So, I am going to turn first of all to the various aspects of making a Will but I do want to make it clear that what I am about to say is based on what us lawyers call a Simple Will which works for most people, but not all. More complex Wills that involve such things as trusts and liferents etc. are things that we can certainly advise you on but I must make it clear that the guide which I am about to go on to is based on the making of a straightforward, simple Will.
So, things to think about when making a will:
Your executor should be someone you trust. Your executor is someone who is going to make sure that all things you want to be done after you die are done so its important you choose the right person. Ideally, it is going to be someone who is younger than you, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be more than one person- in fact there is no upper limit, but we’d recommend that its two possibly three as beyond that it can become more complicated especially if all executors have to act together. If you’re appointing one person alone It is always vital to think not only about appointing who your main executor will be but also who would do it if the original person you nominate cannot- we call it a ‘whom failing’ executor. That is to say, if for any reason your main executor is unable to take up the role as your executor then who is going to step into their shoes.
Next you need to think about specific and monetary bequests. A specific request is an indication that a particular thing is to go to a particular person or organisation, for example, is I want my wedding ring to be given to my daughter. Likewise, a monetary bequest is leaving a specific amount of money to a particular person or organisation – for example I wish to leave £500 to the local dog charity. Both monetary and specific bequests are the first things paid out of your estate after any debts.
The next thing to think about what you are going to do with something called your residue. Now, your residue is everything else that you have that you haven’t already gifted by way of monetary or specific bequest; it is all of the houses that you have got; it is all of the money in the bank that you have got; it is all the shares that you have got; it is everything, down to, quite literally, the slippers that you have on your feet, and so all of that gets thrown into the one big pot called your residue. What you need to think of is who are you going to give the residue of your estate to. Many people want the residue of their estate to go to their loved ones but we have to think slightly further than that. What happens if any one of your loved ones dies before you? Who would you then want their share to go to?
If you have children under sixteen then the next topic to consider is guardianship, and for anyone with young kids in particular this is a must. I think it is one of the most difficult ones to think about in a Will. It is where you need to think about a set of circumstances where you have died and you have left children under the age of sixteen. Who is going to look after them? Who do you trust to look after your kids every bit as much as you do? This is a really difficult one, particularly where you have separated from your partner. It is one where I wholeheartedly recommend that you obtain legal advice upon.
The final thing to consider, in more ways than one, is your funeral intentions. It can seem morbid to have to consider but giving an indication as to your wishes can be hugely helpful to loved ones. In terms of what to think about, it can be as simple as do you want buried or cremated? Beyond that, is there anything else you want to state must happen at your funeral? One of the ones I tell clients about all the time is the client who wanted to have Queen “Who Wants To Live Forever” playing whilst he was being brought into the Church. It could be anything you want – just tell your lawyer what you want and they’ll make sure its reflected.
And so those are the main things you need to think about when making a Simple Will. I’ve not even touched on the importance of Inheritance Tax planning in this article. This is quite a complex area and it is one that I advise you take legal advice upon and you must not finish your Will without first having ascertained whether or not your estate is close to or exceeds the inheritance tax threshold as that may have an impact on the choices that you make.
Now, and this is the more specific element given the current pandemic, to answer what about getting your Will signed at these times. Please be assured, this does not need to be a problem. Your Solicitor can still meet you – albeit via video call- take your instructions and prepare your Will. We will then supply you with clear directions and guidance on how you go about getting your Will signed. It doesn’t have to be in our presence and can be witnessed by anyone though ideally someone who is not named in the will. Even if the only witness available is someone named in the will, it’s better than nothing and would still be valid. For example, only recently we have had situations where we have had clients who have had to quite literally slip an envelope under the fence of the neighbour next door who then takes the envelope and signs the paperwork and sends it back. Excuse the dad joke but ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’. The important message is this; it is always possible to make a Will.