Find legal advice in Norwich on making a will
PUBLISHED: 08:00 24 April 2019 | UPDATED: 17:18 30 April 2019
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Making a will is about so much more than who inherits, it's about taking control of what happens in the event of your death and making it as easy as possible for those left behind. If you haven't made one yet, here's how to go about it.
Writing a will is one of those things that people tend to put off – often thinking that when they die, everything will go to their spouse or children anyway. But that's not always the case, so if you want control of your estate, making a will is essential.
Seeking the legal advice of a solicitor makes it easier and more affordable than you might think. Claire Nelson, an Associate in the wills, trusts and probate team at Cozens-Hardy answers some common questions about making a will, and what can happen if you don't.
Is making a will important?
Yes! Writing a will is about taking control of your estate and choosing who inherits your assets, whether that's your house to your spouse, a family ring to your daughter-in-law, or shares to your grandchild.
As well as dealing with your assets, your will can appoint guardians for your children, create a trust to protect your property from care fees and provide important inheritance tax planning. Your will is also your chance to choose someone you trust to be the executor, who will administer the estate.
Many people may know the basic inheritance tax threshold is £325,000, but the reality is the rules are more complex than that. There is also a new inheritance tax threshold linked to your house that is available in some circumstances. It's best to seek the advice of a solicitor who is experienced both in wills and tax planning to discuss how the rules would apply to you and how any tax can be minimised!
Who inherits when dying intestate?
If someone dies without a will (intestate) the Government dictates how their assets are distributed and they have no control over who inherits.
A spouse or civil partner has first priority, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll inherit everything. If there are children, the spouse gets the first £250,000, all the personal belongings, and half of the remaining estate. The children inherit the rest.
If there's no spouse, civil partner or children, the estate passes to other categories of relatives such as grandchildren, parents or siblings.
If there are no surviving relatives, your estate would pass to the Crown.
There's no provision for beneficiaries such as godchildren, step-children, friends or charities and importantly couples who aren't married or civil partners have no right to inherit. There may be the right in limited circumstances to make a formal claim against the estate, but there would be associated legal fees, not to mention the stress and upset this could cause.
How do I make a will?
There are a few different options: you can write a will yourself or ask a professional to draw one up.
There are certain legal formalities that need to be met for a will to be valid. If you buy a will-writing kit and don't read the instructions properly, the will might not be valid in the event of your death. Sometimes the cost saving isn't worth the worry that you may have got it wrong.
How much does making a will cost?
It's not as expensive as people think. At Cozens-Hardy we have fixed fees for wills of £225+vat for a single will and £325+vat for joint wills.
This covers wills where assets are going to chosen beneficiaries, with some legacies, substitution provisions in case beneficiaries pass away, plus naming of guardians for children.
For wills containing trusts (such as to cater for disabled beneficiaries or to protect property from care fees) the fixed fee is slightly higher.
What's involved in making a will?
The process is fairly simple. Initially we'd sit down together in a friendly environment and you tell us about your family and finances over a cup of tea. From this we can find out your objectives and circumstances, so we can offer advice on the options available to you.
This meeting usually takes about an hour, after which we'll send a terms of business letter, which needs to be read and signed to say you understand the process and the service offered.
We then send you a draft of the will and a letter of explanation. Amendments can continue to be made and once you're happy with the draft, you simply make an appointment to come in and sign the will.
What do I need to know before making a will?
It's useful to bring an estimation of your assets to the meeting, including your property value, details of your savings, life insurance policies, shares and any special items you wish to gift in your will. This will allow us to fully advise you, especially when it comes to inheritance tax. We also need you to provide details of who you wish to benefit in your will.
Things change over time; the tax rules may be altered in the future, you may lose contact with a named beneficiary, you could even inherit money yourself. We always recommend checking your will every few years to ensure it's up to date and an accurate representation of your wishes based on your present circumstances.
Claire Nelson is an Associate in the wills, trusts and probate team at Cozens-Hardy. For more information call 01603 724636 or visit www.cozens-hardy.com/wills-enquiry