How to Make a Will24th March 2015
A Will (sometimes also called Last Will and Testament) is a legal document where a person (called Testator) formulates wishes concerning the management and distribution of his or her estate after death. Although it mainly applies to material possessions, a Will can also cover other issues, such as selecting a guardian to one’s children.
Why You Need a Will
When a person dies without a Will, there is no way for the authorities to legally know his or her intentions. The estate is managed and distributed according to rules specified by intestacy laws.
These rules can be quite simple if your wealth is limited and you have a surviving wife or husband. But the greater your wealth, more diverse your assets and more complicated your family situation (e.g. with children from multiple marriages or when living with an unmarried spouse), the more complicated the inheritance process becomes. Of course, more complicated also means taking more time and costing more in various legal fees and taxes. When you die without a Will, your family may end up without access to essential assets for an extended period of time. The consequences can be even more damaging if you run a business.
In light of the above, it is clear that writing a Will is worth it. The time and costs it takes to make a Will are negligible compared to the potential consequences.
How to Make a Will
If you want to make a valid UK Will, there are just two steps:
1. Write it.
2. Have it formally witnessed and signed.
The first step can be very simple and you can write your Will by yourself – there is no legal requirement to have a Will written by a professional. However, it is very risky to do it on your own unless you have expert knowledge in all the related areas. The key objective is to make sure your Will will be interpreted exactly in the way you intend, which is extremely hard without knowing all the legal details, especially when your assets, situation and wishes are more complex. Although some people may want to save a little money and not get professional help when making a Will, this is obviously not a smart choice.
How to Update Your Will
Neither our financial issues nor our relationships remain constant throughout our lives and you may want to update your Will from time to time. For example, you get married, divorced or separated, you have new children or grandchildren or someone named in your Will dies. Even without a clear trigger like the above, it is wise to review your Will regularly.
If you want to change something, you must again do it in a way that is legally valid. There are two options:
• You can make an official alteration to the existing Will. This is called Codicil.
• You can write a completely new Will.
In either case, your changed Will must again be properly signed and witnessed. It is generally recommended to write a completely new Will if the changes are substantial, in order to avoid possible delays and complications when you die.
Living Abroad and Your Will
When you live and work abroad or when you have assets outside the UK, keep in mind that Wills and inheritance are subject to different rules in different countries. It is often necessary to have your Will translated to the local language and validated in line with the local requirements. You should always seek professional advice if you are an expat.