What to think about when writing your Will
There are many things to consider when writing your Will. Here is our guide to some of the most common factors:
Executors are the people who deal with everything after you are gone. Their job would be to collect in your assets, notify any relevant people/organisations that you have died and distribute/manage your estate. Anyone can be your executor, even if they are also your beneficiaries.
The only requirement is that they are over the age of 18 when you die. We can appoint children so that they will become executors if they are over the age of 18, but if they are very young, you may prefer to revise your Will in the future when you can see how well they are able to manage money, get along with siblings also appointed etc.
The most common appointments are spouses (if you have one), any children (if they are already adults) and siblings or friends, but anyone you trust can be an executor. We usually recommend appointing replacement executors in case your “first choice” is unable to unwilling to act (especially if those appointed are of a similar age to you or older than you).
Guardians are the people who will look after any children you have who are aged under 18 when both parents have died.
These are often the same people as your executors; although we recommend ensuring that at least one of your executors is not a guardian (this can help as you then have someone managing the money who is independent from those spending it).
Again, when writing your Will you may wish to appoint replacement guardians in case your “first choice” is unable or unwilling to act.
Ideally you want your guardians and executors to work together to look after your children and ensure their wellbeing. We can supply a template letter of wishes to help you guide your guardians and executors as to how you want your children to be brought up if both parents are no longer alive.
Funeral wishes requests, such as cremation or burial can be included if you would like, but you do not have to put in anything if you do not want. You can give more detailed instructions if preferred but these should ideally go in a separate letter of wishes.
Personal chattels are your personal possessions such as clothes, jewellery, cars, furniture, white goods in your home etc.
We usually recommend these are left to your spouse in the first instance (if you have one) and then to your executors to distribute in accordance with any wishes you make known.
You can then write a separate letter of wishes that deals with these items. This does not have to be followed, but your executors will need to take this into account and it would be unusual for them not to follow your wishes. The letter of wishes would also not need to be disclosed with probate (so people wouldn’t necessarily be able to see it after you have died, unless your executors disclosed it to them).
Specific or Pecuniary Gifts (items or cash gifts) can be included in your Will if you like, but you do not have to make these if you do not wish to. These are not discretionary (unlike the personal chattels clause) and can help to provide certainty as to what is distributed and to whom.
Your Residuary Estate is everything that is left after you have taken out any personal chattels, specific or pecuniary gifts already dealt with by your Will. You need to decide who you want this to go to.
Common provisions might be to your spouse (if you have one) and if you have both died, between your children equally.
We usually recommend that children receive their share upon reaching the age of 25, but you can choose an age younger or older than this. Before reaching the specific age, your executors would be able to provide assets to them at your executors’ discretion. So for example if a 17 year old asked the executors for a new car, they might say yes to a £5,000 Ford Fiesta but no to a £50,000 Ferrari.
We also often suggest a back-up option, particularly if those named often travel together. Some people refer to this as the “disaster” provision. Whilst not something that you would want to think about, it can sometimes be useful to make provision in your Will for what should happen if you all died together in an accident say. You do not need to include this, but if the worst were to happen and there was no one to take your estate, you are likely to have an intestacy or partial intestacy and statute (the authorities) would determine who inherits.
Rebecca McCarthy is a solicitor in the private client department at Barker Gotelee, Ipswich solicitors.