There are many reasons why you may put off preparing a Will as it can feel like a daunting and often emotional prospect. Three of the most common reasons we come across are: life gets in the way; not knowing where to start; and discussing what should happen after your death is depressing. These are all perfectly valid reasons, however, they do not outweigh the importance of putting a Will in place and the peace of mind you will feel knowing your wishes are followed when you are no longer around. We can help with this process.
Life gets in the way
We recognise that life is full of competing responsibilities and events. Though our mantra as solicitors is that every adult should have a Will, we understand that other life events can get in the way. Life events can often be the trigger for some reflection and an ideal time to prepare or update your Will. These include:
- Marriage or Civil Partnership:
- New Additions to the Family (children, stepchildren, adopted children and grandchildren);
- Major Life Decisions (for example, choosing not to get married and/or having any children);
- Purchase of Property;
- Separation or Divorce;
- Change in Financial Position (for example, receiving an inheritance or winning the lottery);
- Change in Health; and
- Death of a Loved One.
Where to start
We understand that preparing a Will can seem like a daunting process, so we try to keep things as simple as possible. The starting point for any Will is to consider the following questions.
Who do you trust to manage your estate (essentially your assets) and implement your wishes on your death?
The answer to this question can determine who should be the Executor of your estate, this is the person responsible for carrying out instructions on your behalf. For married couples or civil partners, it is typical for spouses/partners to act as each other’s Executor. However, the Executor could also be your sibling, child, or friend. You can also appoint more than one Executor. We would always suggest that you have a replacement Executor in the event that your initial Executor predeceases you.
Before naming any Executors in your Will, you should confirm that they are willing to act and obtain their full names and addresses for inclusion in your Will. We can provide some guidance around what is involved to assist you in this conversation.
If it is your preference that you do not want any of your loved ones to have the responsibility of handling your affairs, we can act as your Executor or replacement Executor.
Who do you wish to inherit your estate on your death?
We appreciate the response to this question may be straightforward or more complicated, depending on your circumstances or preferences. For most married couples and civil partners with children, it is likely that the estate would be left to the survivor and then equally between the children whom failing, any grandchildren.
We recognise that in today’s modern world the shape and concept of family has evolved. In Scotland it is not possible to disinherit your spouse/civil partner or your children. If your wishes are more complicated or you have concerns about any of your potential beneficiaries, we can assist by providing you with options on how you can best achieve your wishes, and ensure your loved ones appropriately receive their inheritance.
What are your funeral instructions?
The answer to this question is simpler than you think. It is a direction to your Executor as to what you would like done with your body, for example, whether your preference is cremation, burial or donated for medical science. We appreciate that these can be difficult things to think about, but it is an important part of the process.
We would suggest that if you have an idea of how you would like your funeral service organised, for example the passages to be read, the hymns to be sung, location of reception, etc. that these wishes are communicated to your Executor in a letter. This allows for flexibility in case you would like to add or change any of your wishes in the future and would not require any amendments to your Will.
These three questions are a good starting point to consider ahead of any appointment to prepare your Will. Alongside these questions, there are two additional questions that may be worth considering, depending on your circumstances. If you have young children, you may want to consider who should act as their guardians if something were to happen to you and your spouse/partner. If you have a variety of assets and you are unable to provide a general overview during your appointment, then it may be worth preparing a list. This information would allow us to provide guidance on any inheritance tax allowances available to you or other tax planning tools you could implement now.
Discussing death is depressing
Death is sadly an inevitable part of life, but preparing your Will does not necessarily need to be a sad process. It is a moment to recognise where you are in life and an opportunity to plan for what happens next. It gives you a measure of control over your affairs rather than leaving the division of your estate to be determined by the law. The process of preparing your Will allows you to consider how to effectively structure your estate to maximise the inheritance for your loved ones, whilst ensuring they inherit your estate appropriately. The result is a Will that ultimately reflects your wishes.
There is often a sense of relief and peace of mind once you have gone through this process and your affairs are in order. If for any reason you have put off preparing or updating your Will, please get in touch and we can guide you through each step.