A Will is a written record that says who you want your money and possessions to go to when you die. As it is a very important document the law specifies what will be recognised as a Will.
In practice, the person making the Will – Testator (male) or Testatrix (female) must:
be 18 years of age or over;
have testamentary capacity at the times of taking their instructions and signing, i.e. be of sound mind;
Know and understand the instructions they are giving you;
Know whom they should consider in their Will;
Make the Will of their own free choice;
Understand the contents and consequences of their Will;
Know they are signing a Will.
EVERY adult needs to make a Will, regardless of their age. Even if they don’t have any children or significant assets they still need to make a Will. Without one significant delays and costs will occur. The Probate Court will appoint an executor for them (actually called a Personal Representative or Administrator). This may or may not be someone that they would have naturally been chosen and may in fact be a high street solicitor or bank that will charge (excessively) for their services – sometimes up to 8% of the gross estate.
The consequences of not having a Will are covered below under Intestacy.
There’s no time like NOW! You should particularly consider writing or changing your Will when you get married, divorced, or change your personal relationship in any other way. Also at the birth of a child or grandchild, and at the death of a close family member.
The following table gives an indication as to which Will is appropriate for each case.
|Standard Single Will|
- The Testator is single
- The Testator is divorced
- The Testator has been widowed
|Standard Double Will|
- The Testator has a partner/spouse or is in a Civil Partnership and
has total assets (on 2nd death) less than £325,000
|Double Will incorporating the Property Preservation Trust||the Testator has a partner/spouse or is in a Civil Partnership and
has total assets (on 2nd death) less than £325,000 or is concerned about their children not inheriting their rightful inheritance should their spouse remarry|
|Double Will incorporating the Nil Rate Band Trust|
- the Testator has a partner/spouse or is in a Civil Partnership and
has total assets (on 2nd death) greater than £325,000
Note that a double Will is not appropriate for two people who happen to just live in the same property (e.g. friends or siblings); two single Wills should be used in this case.
The intestate estate will be distributed according to rules dating back to 1925 (in England & Wales). They depend on marital status, whether there are children and the surviving immediate family. See the Laws of Intestacy.
Yes, of course you can save a few pounds this way! But is it worth it? The Will is probably the most important financial document that you will ever own – it is the cornerstone of all financial planning. Could you guarantee it being legally proven, legally signed and covering every eventuality? It definitely won’t cover estate and inheritance tax planning. If you could not guarantee such things, you need a professional service to help.
No. For most family situations a Will writing and estate planning company, such as Cornerstone Wills, with the expertise and experience of its consultants often provides a better and more comprehensive service than a solicitor is able to provide.
We are members of STEP and the Society of Will Writers. All our consultants are highly qualified through both organisations and regularly attend training sessions with far more CPD hours gained than is required.
A husband would normally name his wife, and a wife her husband, along with another close family member, maybe a grown up son or daughter, or close family friend. It is generally advisable to appoint a professional executor acting jointly with your spouse/partner/family member or friend. Always ask for, and obtain, permission from the individual concerned, before naming them as your executor.
Caring for your children up to the age of eighteen years is quite a responsibility and should be given only to those who are in a position to do so. A good choice would be a family member or maybe a very close friend. This matter needs careful consideration and discussion with all those involved. Only name someone with his or her prior permission and agreement.
Two people over the age of eighteen years will be required to witness your Will. All three of you must be together when signing. Your witnesses do not have to know the contents of your Will, they are only there to witness that you have signed the Will, that you are over the age of eighteen years and that you are sound in mind. No one mentioned in your Will as beneficiaries can act as witnesses, neither can their spouses.
In such a case you could consider naming your favourite charity as your main beneficiary.
Because we are professional enough to be entrusted with the important task of writing your Will, and are human enough to care.
Find out more on the Why Cornerstone Wills? Page.
Yes, but only by signing a document called a Codicil. This must be prepared, signed and executed in a particular way. You do not need a Codicil if you or any person named in your Will changes their address. A Codicil is useful for minor changes to your Will. At Cornerstone Wills we recommend that a new Will is drafted rather than drafting a Codicil as there is greater opportunity to lose one or both of the Will or Codicil.
You can cancel your Will by making a new Will, or by destroying it. Note that it must be destroyed by yourself - no one can do it on your behalf.
A Will is almost always automatically voided if you get married after you have made it - unless it is drawn up in contemplation of marriage.
If you get divorced after you have made it, any provisions in favour of your ex-spouse will be cancelled unless the Will states otherwise and your ex-spouse cannot act as your Executor/Trustee.
It is essential that you consider writing a new Will if there are major changes to your marital circumstances.
If you have not properly provided for any of your dependants who are unable to maintain themselves, or if you have not been fair to your spouse (or an ex-spouse who has not remarried), the Court can alter your Will.
Any reasons for leaving someone out should therefore be given in your Will or in a separate letter which can be referred to in your Will. The Court will then consider these reasons although it will not be bound by them.
Executors are simply the people appointed in your Will to carry out your instructions.
Executors bring together all your assets, pay your debts and any gifts of money, transfer any gifts or personal belongings and deal with the remainder - your Residuary Estate - in accordance with your Will.
Often non-professional Executors will ask a professional organisation such as Cornerstone Wills or a solicitor to do some or all of the work for them.
Trustees are the people appointed in your Will to look after your property or interests until, say, your children are old enough to inherit. Executors and Trustees are often (but not necessarily) the same people.
You can reasonably appoint up to four Executors (or as many as you like), but we recommend you should normally appoint two.
You can appoint alternative Executors in case your first choice decides not to take the position or predeceases you.
Any adult, solicitor or bank may be appointed as an Executor. One could be the person who is going to receive the biggest share of your estate, such as your spouse. Relatives and close family friends can also be Executors. If you appoint a professional Executor, they will charge for their service. For more on this, see our section on Executors within the "Wills" menu, Cornerstone Wills can be appointed to act solely or jointly with others that you trust or as a final choice to provide longevity to the Will.
Only if the Will says so. Most Wills provide that most professional executors and trustees should be paid their normal fees. They would not act otherwise.
A solicitor’s fees could be 4% or more of the value of the Estate plus an hourly rate. A bank's fees would be considerably higher.
Why not consider Cornerstone's own Estate Administration services?
If you have children under the age of 18 who may be left with no parents, we strongly recommend you should appoint a suitable Guardian or Guardians.
The appointment of Guardians allows you to decide who should be responsible for your children's welfare. You should also give consideration as to the age of the Guardians, consider their current relationship with your children or whether they have the same views on education, and so on.
Guardians can also be the Executors.
Husbands and wives usually, but not always, own property together as "joint tenants". This means that when one of them dies the other one automatically becomes the owner of the property. It also means that a joint tenant cannot make a gift in a Will of his or her share of the property.
Non-spouses (whether co-habiting partners, friends or family) typically, but not always, own property together as "tenants in common". This means that when one of them dies, the interest in the property forms part of the Estate. It also means that a "tenant in common" can make a gift in a Will of his or her share of the property.
A joint tenancy can easily be converted into a tenancy in common by registering the change with the appropriate land registry office for the property, which we organise for you as part of the service, if appropriate to your Will.
If the value of your estate is more than £325,000 after payment of your debts and any gifts to charity, Inheritance Tax (IHT) may be payable at 40% on the value over this amount.
For married couples or couples in a Civil Partnership the tax exemption could possibly be doubled to £650,000.
We can advise you on ways of reducing or removing the impact of Inheritance Tax.
For more information see the sections under the Inheritance Tax menu.
A gift is free of tax when any Inheritance Tax (IHT), if it is payable, is to be paid out of your Residuary Estate and not to be taken out of the gift or otherwise paid by the recipient.
With our Wills, all gifts, except of the Residue, are free of IHT, unless it is appropriate to specify otherwise. Regardless, all gifts to charities are exempt from IHT. See the IHT Exemptions page.
You can do this if you have made provision for this is your Will, but do not attach the list to your Will.
If, say, you wish to ensure that your partner is adequately provided for but feel you have a duty towards, say, children of an earlier marriage, then you may wish to consider giving your partner a "life interest" in your Estate. This restricts the partner's inheritance to the income only of your monetary assets and the use of your home. On the death of your partner the capital will pass to whoever you have specified in your Will.
You should, however, bear in mind that unless the Estate is fairly large, the income may be insufficient to support your partner. The duties of the Executors and Trustees will also be more onerous.
When considering a gift of a life interest, it is very important to remember that the recipient does not own the property in your Residuary Estate and cannot dispose of it in his or her Will. It is important to remember that the prime duty of the Trustees is to keep a fair balance between income for the person getting a life interest and capital growth for those who will be ultimately entitled to your Residuary Estate.
Please also note that when the person to whom a life interest has been dies, the value of the life interest will be included in their taxable estate.
You should leave it in a safe place. Your Executors will need the original when you die. We can arrange for your Will to be stored in our Will Bank.
The residue is everything that remains after specific bequests (if any) and after payment of all debts, taxes and expenses. The residue should not be itemised as you do not know what will be in your estate when you die. You can simply decide what proportion each beneficiary is to receive, if you are naming more than one. You may wish to leave the residue to your spouse and then for it to pass on to your children. If perhaps you do not wish your children to benefit in equal shares you can state what proportion each child is to receive.
If you are single, or do not have any children you may wish to leave the residue to other named beneficiaries - such as siblings or nephews and nieces.