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What is a Will?
Why is a Will made?
What is a Will?
According to the dictionary, the definition of a Will is, "directions, usually written, in legal form for disposition to be made of a person's property after their death".
A Will is a way of trying to ensure that what you want to happen after your death will occur according to your wishes. The instructions defined by the will may encompass anything from small simple gifts to friends, through to complicated trusts and the appointment of guardians of young children in the event of one or more parents dying unexpectedly.
Strictly speaking everyone should make a Will, but unfortunately not many people do.
If you do not make a Will, the law will decide who will take charge of your financial affairs after your death, called 'personal representatives'. The law will also define who will receive everything you own, usually called the 'beneficiaries'. This may mean that someone unsuitable may be dealing with your financial matters and someone may benefit whom you did not wish to do so.
Making a Will usually involves professionals whether they are solicitors, professional Will writers or banks.
A Will can at first sight appear costly to produce especially when some of us may not appear to have much money and few possessions. A Will Form can be purchased from a post office and, if properly filled in and witnessed correctly, is valid. However, a professional advisor such as a solicitor, bank representative or a member of the Institute of Professional Will Writers will be able to produce a better Will and there is less chance of any misrepresentation or mistake being made.
A Will needs to cater for different eventualities that you may not have considered. There may be Inheritance Tax implications which affect certain decisions regarding the Will and you will need advice about potential problems that may arise.
An important part of Will writing is to appoint an executor who will accept the duties and responsibilities attached to the Will and ensure that the instructions defined in the will are carried out to the letter.
More often than not an executor will be aware of their appointment prior to death taking place. The Executor could be the professional making out the Will, a close friend or a member of the family.
Once death has occurred it is very important to know the Will's whereabouts as soon as possible after death and to establish the deceased's wishes regarding their funeral. Often, for example, instructions are included about specific funeral requirements such as where the service should be held or what should be done with the cremated remains (ashes) after the cremation (see Pre-funeral planning).
It is very important to know if the deceased has expressed a wish in life for their body to be bequeathed to medical science. In such circumstances there will be written documentation that has been pre-prepared in conjunction with the medical school concerned.
This information about the deceased's final wishes must be acted upon as soon as practicable due to the speed with which medical schools require a body after death.
Although the deceased may have expressly wished their body to be left to medical science, the availability of a place at the medical school concerned, together with the final illness and subsequent cause of death may in fact mean that the medical school refuses to accept the bequeathal. Under these circumstances a funeral will have to take place which may contravene the deceased's last wishes.
Depending on the nature and value of your assets, it may be wise to plan your Will to minimise tax liabilities. Before contacting a Solicitor, calculate the approximate value of your assets including:
The house, Personal possessions, Stocks and Shares, Land, Foreign Assets, Savings and any other investments.
When someone dies there are a number of procedures that need to be followed prior to the funeral. These procedures are statutory and in no way related to whether or not there is a Will.
See What to do after death
See How to register a death
See The work of the coroner