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Making a will is the most important thing you can do to ensure your loved ones are protected and provided for after you die.
We understand that preparing for the eventuality of your own death can feel morbid and many people put off making a will until they are older for this very reason. However, no one can predict what will happen in life and unfortunately, people do sometimes pass away suddenly or sustain an injury or illness which renders them unable to create a will. We therefore cannot stress enough the importance of planning for every eventuality, particularly if you have children and significant assets.
Our highly skilled solicitors who specialise in wills and probate can help you create a will setting out your wishes after you pass away. We are members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) with unique expertise supporting elderly clients and the challenges which arise as we grow older.
We will ensure your estate planning needs are fully met, even if you aren’t exactly sure how you want to structure your estate at this stage. We’ll guide you through all your options, from Inheritance Tax planning, to leaving gifts to loved ones and charity, to using trusts to safeguard your wealth even after you die. We can also provide advice on the practical aspects of making a Will such as the effect of marrying or divorcing on your succession plans.
Get in touch with our wills and probate solicitors to make your will by giving your local branch a call in Nottingham, Peterborough, Spalding, Alconbury or Birmingham. Alternatively, click on this link to open our 'SmartForm' Will Enquiry form and start the process straight away.
Making a will – Our wills and probate solicitors’ expertise
Our approach to making wills is client-centred; we’ll keep your best interests at heart every step of the way and our ultimate goal is to help you proceed with confidence that your loved ones’ futures are secure.
There are many factors to take into consideration when making a will. We can talk you through these as well as outlining your options in clear, understandable English so you can make informed decisions about the best way to proceed. Some of the things you should consider are set out below:
Marriage and civil partnerships
Getting married or entering into a civil partnership will automatically revoke any will you already have unless it made a reference to your marriage.
This means that if you do not make a new will, if you die then the rules of intestacy will dictate how your money and assets are divided. For estates valued under £250,000, your new spouse or civil partner will receive everything. For estates over £250,000, your spouse will receive £250,000 and your personal belongings; the remainder will then be split equally between your spouse and children.
Of course, this may be contrary to your wishes, particularly if you have children from a previous marriage for whom you may want to provide. Therefore, you should always consult a solicitor specialising in wills and probate if you plan to get married or enter into a civil partnership to check whether your will is at risk of being revoked and to make a new will.
Many people believe that if you live with a partner for a long period of time, you will be considered married in the eyes of the law. However, contrary to popular belief, there is actually no such thing as a common law marriage. If you pass away without making a will, your partner won’t inherit anything.
Therefore, if you are unmarried, it’s crucially important to make a will to ensure your partner is provided for.
Divorce or dissolution doesn’t automatically revoke your will; however, it does have a significant impact. Upon divorce, your ex-spouse will be unable to inherit under your will as a Beneficiary, nor will they be able to act as Executor. In fact, they will be considered by the law to have died on the day your marriage ended.
It’s therefore important to update your will upon divorce or dissolution so it continues to reflect your true wishes.
If you’re approaching retirement, it is essential to make a will to prepare for things like future care home fees (which can quickly drain an estate, leaving little for the Beneficiaries) and Inheritance Tax (which can take up to 40% of your estate over your tax free allowance).
Leaving money gifts to friends and charity
As well as providing for family, you can use your will to leave gifts for friends or charity. Leaving gifts to charity can even reduce your liability for Inheritance Tax.
Inheritance Tax is tax due on the estate (money, property, and personal belongings) of someone who has died. The current rate of Inheritance Tax is 40%, however, you will be exempt if:
- The value of your estate falls below £325,000 (the tax free threshold)
- You leave the entirety of your estate above £325,000 to your spouse, civil partner, a charity, or a community amateur sports club
Any tax free threshold you do not use when leaving your estate to your spouse or civil partner can be added to their threshold when they die.
An important part of making a will is making sure your estate plan is tax-efficient, allowing your loved ones to inherit as much as possible.
Main Residence Nil Rate Band
If you leave your family home to your spouse or civil partner in your will, you will pay no Inheritance Tax on this.
Additionally, under the Inheritance Tax Main Residence Nil Rate Band, introduced in 2017, in addition to your £325,000 tax-free threshold, you can leave your home to a direct descendant (including adopted children) while benefiting from an extra £150,000 tax free allowance (rising to £175,000 from April 2020).
Planning for care home fees
With care home fees averaging at around £32,000 per year in 2017-2018 (rising to around £44,000 where nursing care is required), the costs of care in old age can quickly diminish an estate.
It’s illegal to transfer your assets to other people in order to avoid care home fees. However, you may be able to protect up to half of your family home through a carefully drawn will. If you put your share of the property into trust for your spouse or civil partner after you die, they can continue living in the property but its legal ownership will be with the trustees. As such, that half cannot be accessed by your local authority to use for care home fees.
We can strategically draft your trust to allow the property to be sold and capital to be released by the trustees to pay for care if necessary.
Pilot trusts can be created during your lifetime to mitigate your liability for Inheritance Tax as each trust has a separate tax free allowance of up to £325,000. Upon your death, your pilot trust will receive money or property from your will, a pension fund, life insurance pay-out, or death-in-service benefit.
The rules surrounding pilot trusts are complex so it’s important to obtain the clear advice of one of our wills and probate solicitors before proceeding.
Reviewing your will
Once you’ve created a will, we recommend reviewing it every 5 years or to ensure it still reflects your wishes and hasn’t been invalidated by changes in the law and your personal circumstances.
In order to make a valid Will, the testator needs to have sufficient mental capacity (called “testamentary capacity”). A person lacks testamentary capacity where they don't understand:
- What making or changing a will means
- How much money or property they own
- How their will might affect people included in it, and those who may be left out
If your loved one lacks testamentary capacity and hasn’t made a will, we can help you apply to the Court of Protection for a Statutory Will.
The role of the Executors
If you’ve been named the Executor of a Will (or Administrator if the deceased died intestate), then your duty to identify the assets of the estate (such as money, property, investments, and pension funds), pay funeral costs, pay Inheritance Tax, pay off any debts, and distribute inheritance to the Beneficiaries. This process is called probate.
We have extensive experience helping Executors and Administrators administer estates. We will provide expert advice about your duties and handle all the practical aspects on your behalf, such as applying for the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration.
Why choose Roythornes’ wills solicitors?
Although we’re a large, established firm, we never lose sight of the real everyday issues affecting our clients. Estate planning and ensuring your loved ones are provided for after you pass away is of utmost importance and it’s our priority that you end up with a will which allows you to proceed into the future with confidence.
We’ve also been awarded the Lexcel legal practice quality mark for exceptional client care and legal practice management. This means when you instruct us, you can trust that our advice is reliable and accurate and that our service will be efficient, professional, and cost-effective.
Several members of our team are members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), an organisation for lawyers specialising in Wills, trusts, and probate who are dedicated to achieving successful outcomes for their clients.
Carolyn Byrne is also a member of the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT), signifying her expertise in all taxation matters, including Inheritance Tax.
Roythornes is Independently regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).