A will is a formal witnessed document that sets out how you wish to dispose of your possessions (also called your estate) on death. It’s a fairly straightforward document to put together but as it’s so important I would strongly advise you to use a solicitor to help you write your will.

 

Why?

  • If you die intestate (without a will) your estate is distributed in accordance with the rules set out in the Succession Act by an Administrator who gets a Grant of Representation from the Probate Office.
  • If you die testate (having made a valid will) all your possessions will be distributed in the way you set out in your will by the executor or executors you named in your will.
  • Therefore having a will can save time and money and ensure that proper (and uncontested) arrangements are made for your dependents and that your estate is distributed in the way you wish after you die.
  • If you have young children, you can choose a guardian to look after them if you and your husband/wife/partner die together. You can also appoint a trustee to manage the financial arrangements on behalf of your children.
  • A will can play an important role in reducing any inheritance tax your beneficiaries may have to pay by taking advantage of tax reliefs and allowances.

How To?

  • I would advise that you let your solicitor take care of the ‘how’ but for the will to be valid you must be aged 18 or over (or married), act of your own free will, and be of sound mind, memory and understanding.
  • A will should contain your name and address, a clause to revoke previous wills, a clause appointing at least one executor, a list of legacies (gifts of money or goods), a list of devises (gifts of real property) and a clause to dispose of the remainder of the estate.
  • The will must be signed at the end by you (or by someone in your presence under your direction) in the presence of two witnesses.
  • You should also keep an updated list of your assets along with all your important financial documents in a safe place. It will be vital that your dependents know what their financial situation will be in the event of your death and whether they have any immediate access to cash funds.

What Else?

  • You can make as many wills as you like but the only relevant one is the last valid will made before your death.
  • When your estate is distributed, the legal rights of your spouse/civil partner and children will be fulfilled first after any debts are paid and before any other gifts are considered.
  • If you are married, your surviving spouse has a right to half the estate if there are no children and one third of the estate if there are children.
  • Some assets may be frozen and require a Grant of Probate to administer the estate.
  • A will may only be revoked by a subsequent marriage, a later will, a declaration in writing of intention to revoke the will, or if you burn, tear or destroy your will.