Your Will is probably the most important legal document that you’ll ever sign. It sets out how your estate will be administered after you die and who will inherit it. Yet, surprisingly, only a third of adults in the UK have one. Without a Will, the Rules of Intestacy decide who inherits your estate which may not be who you want, or even expect.
It is particularly important to make a Will if you are not married or are not in a registered civil partnership (a legal arrangement that gives same-sex partners the same status as a married couple). This is because the law does not automatically recognize cohabitants (partners who live together) as having the same rights as husbands, wives and civil partners. As a result, even if you’ve lived together for many years, your cohabitant may be left with nothing if you have not made a Will.
A Will is also vital if you have children or dependents who may not be able to care for themselves. Without a Will there could be uncertainty about who will look after or provide for them if you die. Inheritance Tax planning can also be considered when making a Will, ensuring that your family are placed in the best possible position should you die.
Once you have had a Will drawn up, some changes to your circumstances – for example, marriage, civil partnership, separation, divorce or if your civil partnership is dissolved (legally ended) – can make all or part of that Will invalid or inadequate. This means that you must review your Will regularly, to reflect any major life changes. It is best to deal with any major changes by getting a new Will drawn up. But it is also possible to make minor changes (or ‘codicils’) to your existing Will.
Once you have appointed a solicitor they will need the following details from you:
- what you own;
- who gets what;
- family and other beneficiaries;
- other wishes;
- executors of your Will.
Once the Will has been drawn up it is not effective until it has been signed. There are several rules affecting the signature process which, if not followed correctly, will make your Will invalid.
It is important to keep your Will in a safe place and tell your executors or a close friend or relative where it is. People often ask their solicitor to store their Wills for them.