Wills Solicitors York, Wetherby & Malton
No-one wants to think about dying, but it is vitally important that you have an up-to-date Will that sets out what you want to happen when you pass away. Without one, those that survive you could find themselves lost in a legal maze, unable to access the assets they know you wanted them to have.
In this article, we look to answer some of the commonly asked questions, including:
- What should I include in my Will?
- How do I ensure my Will is valid?
- Who can by a witness to my Will?
- Do I need a solicitor to make a Will?
- What happens if I do not make a Will?
- Do I have to name an executor?
- What happens if I want to change my Will?
Ware & Kay can guide you through the Will writing process with ease and ensure that, whatever the future holds, your loved ones are looked after as you would want. Talk to our Wills lawyers today on 01904 716000 (York), 01937 583210 (Wetherby) or 01653 692247 (Malton), or use our online contact form.
A Will is a legal document establishing how you want your money, property and possessions to be distributed after you die.
When writing your Will, it should set out (as a starting point):
- who should inherit what
- who will look after any children aged under 18
- your executor (the person who will administer your estate)
Having these instructions clearly stated in your Will is the only way to ensure that your estate is handled in accordance with your wishes.
A number of formalities are required to make sure your Will is legal. It must be in writing, signed, and witnessed by at least two other people. Your Will should also be dated and specify that any previous Wills are now revoked.
A witness confirms that the Will has been signed by the person making it. A witness must be aged 18 or over and of sound mind. It’s important to note that a beneficiary to the Will cannot be a witness.
Whilst it is not mandatory to do so, we strongly recommended that you seek legal advice when making a Will. Confusion regarding the identity of a beneficiary or what you would like to leave to them can cause significant problems, as can failing to make provision for how gifts/assets should pass if your intended beneficiary dies before you.
The support of a Wills lawyer can ensure the wording of your Will is precise and prevent any ambiguity over your intentions.
When is legal advice especially important?
Not all Wills are straightforward, and there are certain life circumstances which can make writing a Will more complex. Below are some of scenarios where you should consider obtaining legal advice for your Will:
- you share a property with someone who is not your spouse or civil partner
- you want to leave assets to a dependant who is unable to care for themselves
- several family members may make a claim on your Will, for instance children from an earlier marriage
- you live permanently outside the UK
- you own property overseas
- you have a business
- you are divorced but there are ongoing maintenance payments being made to or by you
If you die without a Will, known as ‘dying intestate’, your estate will be distributed according to specific rules. The intestacy rules can have a different outcome to what you would have chosen had you written a Will. For instance, if your partner is not your legal spouse or civil partner, they are not entitled to inherit your assets, even if you have been together for many years. Writing a Will is the only way to make sure that your estate is allocated in the way you want it to be.
The executor of your Will is responsible for carrying out the administrative and financial tasks involved in winding up your estate, including distributing your assets. Your executor should be someone that you trust to handle everything. Whilst you do not have to name an executor in your Will, doing so lets you choose the person (or people) you feel will best perform the role.
Who can be an executor?
Your executor can be anyone you feel is suitable to take on the responsibility, provided they are over 18. A beneficiary of the Will is free to act as an executor.
How many executors can I appoint?
Up to four executors can act on your estate, however, as they all must act jointly, it may not be practical to appoint this many. Nevertheless, having two executors is prudent since they can divide the work and support one another. You can also appoint a substitute executor to carry out the role if one of your chosen executors pre-deceases you or is unable to act.
Can I appoint a professional executor?
Banks and solicitors often act as executors and it is common to appoint both an individual and a professional executor. A professional executor has an expert understanding of the financial and legal aspects of the role and so can be a great help to an individual executor, especially if they are coping with bereavement at the same time as dealing with the estate.
You can change your Will after you make it, but it must be done in the correct legal way for the change to be effective. You must not write on the original Will – doing so could invalidate the whole document.
Making a small change
Minor changes, like leaving a newly acquired item to a friend, can be made via a codicil. A codicil is a separate document that is kept with the original Will. It must be signed and witnessed by two people.
Making a significant change
If your circumstances change, for instance you become a grandparent or one of your intended beneficiaries dies, you should draw up a new Will.
Scenarios where you should replace your existing Will include:
- getting divorced
- if you are widowed
- getting married or entering into a civil partnership as your existing Will would be revoked (i.e. cancelled) by that marriage etc
If your Will no longer reflects your circumstances, you should update it. If you do not, what happens when you die may not be what you would have envisioned. To ensure your intended beneficiaries’ interests are protected, it is best to seek legal advice when renewing your Will.
Contact our Wills Lawyers in Yorkshire
The future may be uncertain, but a Will gives you and your chosen beneficiaries peace of mind about their situation if the worst should happen. The support of a capable solicitor in writing or renewing your Will ensures that everything and everyone will be taken care of in the way that you want.
To speak with our Wills lawyers about how Ware & Kay can assist you with making, updating or storing your Will, call us now on 01904 716000 (York), 01937 583210 (Wetherby) or 01653 692247 (Malton), or use our online contact form.