Approaching making a Will can seem daunting.
There’s much to consider, in making a document that you have no idea when it will come into effect, nor what assets it will cover, nor who will be alive to receive those assets.
It must cope with many scenarios and factor in all sorts of uncertainty.
Burying your head in the sand
It can be understandable to want to put the whole thing off entirely and not think about death. But this is not a sound strategy as not making any arrangements can lead to more uncertainty, and possibly squabbles, delays and increased costs.
By not making a Will you are also passing up the opportunity to decide for yourself who manages your assets after you are gone and who will benefit from them.
Approaching making a Will
So where to start. A Wills questionnaire is a useful prompt – this is essentially a list of questions about your assets and your preferences for various matters that a Will can cover.
But before focusing on those questions, it can be helpful to consider the bigger picture first. Who or what is most important to me? Who is dependent on me and will require support after my death? What impact will the gifts in my Will have on the people close to me? Who do I trust most to carry out my instructions and wishes? The answer to these questions might then inform the detail of your decisions.
While you should make a Will on the basis that it could be your last, it is always sensible to revisit your Will periodically and in particular before major life events such as marriages.
What should my Will cover
Well this depends on you. A Will can cover all sorts of things or not. It can express wishes, such as funeral wishes or these can be dealt with in a private letter. The Will can appoint guardians and may even exercise specific powers given by trusts. For further information see: The importance of making a will.
If your Estate includes overseas property, it is important to take advice in the UK and abroad on whether you should make a separate Will in the overseas country or whether a Will here can cover worldwide property. Both the practicalities for the administration here and abroad and which succession law will apply are key points to address.
As a minimum, beyond the basic form such as a statement of your name and revoking previous Wills, your Will should name Executors – the person or people tasked with administering the Estate. It should also decide what happens to your residuary Estate – this is what’s left over after payment of debts, administration expenses and any specific gifts left in the Will. Beyond that there may be different options for how you can leave your Estate, depending on your family circumstances, how much flexibility you would like your Executors to have and relevant tax considerations.
Approaching a Will needn’t be daunting
Although there is much to consider when making a Will, we often find that engaging with these questions at an early stage can give people a sense of control and comfort in the knowledge that they have left their affairs in good order and made sufficient provision for their loved ones. Most of all, approaching the Will needn’t be daunting.
This publication is a general summary of the law. It should not replace legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances.
© Farrer & Co LLP, November 2022