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  • Writer's pictureMiGem

Wills - Top Tips

Having a valid Will is vital to ensure your wishes are clear and that you detail who should benefit from your estate when you die.

If you die without a valid Will in place, then the laws of intestacy will decide who inherits everything that you owned. This includes any properties and the contents therein, cash held in the bank and all investments, cars, possessions and even your pets.

If you do not have Will that is clear and detailing who you want to benefit and equally anyone you do not want to benefit after your death, it could be legally challenged. In 2019 the number of Wills contested at the High Court rose to 62%.

Given the rise in number of contestations, it is therefore vital that firstly you make a Will and secondly that the Will you make is as irrefutable as possible.

How can you protect you and yours?

Do not deviate from the rules - To be valid it must be in writing, signed by you in front of two independent witnesses, who must also sign it in your presence. These witnesses cannot be Beneficiaries of the Will or they lose their right to the inheritance. It is also best practice for the Witness not to be connected to the beneficiary by blood or marriage (or relationship).

You must have full mental capacity to make the will and understand the effect it will have. If you suffer from an illness or ailment that can affect mental capacity, you should take measures to have your mental capacity assessed by a medical professional and a medical professional witness the signature.

Be accurate – Ensure that the wording of the Will is accurate and correct. For example, if you are leaving specific jewellery to someone describe it detail so to avoid any confusion. Be clear and make sure the Will does not contradict itself. Ambiguity can leave you open to legal challenges.

Keep it up to date - If circumstances change in your family situation, i.e. a new partner who you would like to be a beneficiary, make sure you keep your Will up to date. This makes it less likely to be challenged by someone feeling unfairly treated.

Explain why you’re leaving your estate this way – You do not have to put this in the Will directly, but rather have a letter of wishes that you keep alongside your will explaining why you’re leaving your estate this way and why anyone is excluded, but make mention to this within the Will. This does not prevent people bringing a claim against the will but will be useful if they do.

It may be sensible to discuss your decisions with your family. Obviously, this may not always be possible or easy. However, it ensures that everyone is aware of what is in the Will beforehand and can avoid unpleasant surprises which could lead to potential contestations.

Do what you said you would - If you have made a promise to leave somebody something specific in your Will, and they have therefore based certain life decisions on it, they can challenge your will on this alone. By keeping your promises, you could save everyone a lot of distress and expense. That said you are free to change your mind but detail the reasons why and inform as many people as is practical of your decision and the reasons.

See people enjoy your gifts, before you die – One way to be absolutely sure that someone receives the exact gift you want them to, is to give gifts before you die. You can potential benefit by reducing inheritance tax liability if your estate has this issue depending on the value of the gift and who you are giving the asset to.

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