Whenever I read the words ‘Simple Will’ in an advert I get nervous. Not because it’s typically an advert from a perceived competitor, they are not competitors at all. But because the advert is, in my well thought out opinion, Simply Dangerous.
There really is nothing simple about a Will, and if you’re offered one and considering it based on price, have a read of this and think again.
So, the first thing to think about is that the person making a Will must be at least 18, and they need to be clear about who should benefit from their estate after they are no longer here. If we are talking property, that would include bricks and mortar, money, investments, cars. In fact, anything tangible and movable. That includes pets by the way.
That sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? Maybe, but a Will is a legal document and needs to be written as such. At this point I’m thinking about people who have bought a Will pack and written their own. How on earth can you be sure it’s legally sound? The company selling it makes it fool proof to use right? No! they make money on selling you a tool that you operate. If things go wrong, try to sue them. That might not be so simple. A simple comparison is that I buy a spanner. I could probably take my car apart. In my head (and only in my head) I might be able to put it back together. Or some of it at least, I mean I know the steering wheel goes in front, and the manual says that this bit goes over here….You get the point, I hope.
Use any language that isn’t clear, or if the Will is written in a way that is ambiguous, and the Courts could well need to be called upon to interpret the person’s intentions. That’s not so cheap or simple, believe me.
Ok, let’s assume you’re smart enough to go to a professional who is going to write it for you. Now you’re faced with a few quotes each differing in scale, and then someone really cheap, but says he does the same as all the other ‘more expensive’ guys, only in a fraction of the time. You got it, it’s a Simple Will. In fact, you can be in and out in under an hour, Will in hand. Have a think about some of the things here below.
In addition to all the property and who you might want to leave some, or all of it, to, tax is always a discussion point when it comes to Wills. Your estate will pay 40% inheritance tax on anything over £325,000 (in the current tax year) unless you make any provisions otherwise. What does that mean? Well, if you have an estate of £1m, the first £325,000 passes to your chosen beneficiaries tax free, leaving an amount of £675,000. At 40% that means the tax man gets his grubby little hands on £270,000. You might be thinking, well I haven’t got £1m. Perhaps, but take a piece of paper and write down the value of your property, any investments, cash in the bank, other savings, life policies that aren’t written into trust. I bet if you live in the south, you’ll be worth a lot more than you thought you were. Remember if you have any life cover at all, you’re worth more dead than you are alive.
What about the Residence Nil Rate Band? That alone needs some significant thought, particularly the way the property ought to be held after the first to die if there are two of you. It really isn’t a simple question with a YES/NO answer. It needs thought, discussion.
Then there are a whole host of other things, including choosing the right Executors, and Trustees. When could you use the same people for both? What happens to the children if you die before they are 18? Who do you appoint as guardians? Who next if your chosen guardian dies before you? Won’t happen? Well, the guardians you choose for your children will surely be people you love, trust or both. It’s likely you may spend time with them. You might all be out for a meal together and on the way home………..Unthinkable? Well, you need to think about these things so that you can make provisions for what happens if the unthinkable happens.
If you are leaving gifts to anyone, does the Estate pay the tax on that or do you want the beneficiary to pay it. What about if you die, and your spouse or partner remarries? Do you want your assets to go entirely to them or do you want to ring fence some for them and some for the children? That might change depending on age. You have no idea the number of times I have sat silently between clients going at each other toe to toe just on that point.
If you can go through all that, read and understand the attendance notes (that you should insist on having) make the decisions and understand the consequences and risks of all the decisions you are making, have the document printed, Executed and walk out with it in your hand in under an hour, then you didn’t ‘go through all that, read and understand the attendance notes……..etc’ In other words, you took a short cut, or rather, a Simple Will. Don’t do it.
Call me for a not so simple, but very good and legally sound, discussion about your Will.
This information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and each relationship breakdown requires careful consideration in our view by a fully qualified Solicitor before decisions are made and before you embark on a certain course of action.
Penn Chambers Solicitors
0207 183 1485