MG Legal's will writing guide.
When our Wills, Trusts and Probate experts are arranging an initial appointment for our new clients, they often worry that they won’t have all of the information that our team will need, and they ask: “What information do I need to know?”
We always explain that as long as you can give us basic information, such as your details, and a list of your assets and liabilities, we will be able to get any further information from you at a later date.
However, if you want to make sure you are prepared prior to your initial appointment with our team of Wills, Trusts and Probate Solicitors, we’ve put together below a list of the information that we will need from you to include in your Will.
1. Your name and address - we will need to include your full name and, if applicable, any other names you are known by. For example, if your birth name is A B C Smith, but you usually go by B C Smith, we would usually include both names for clarity. We would also usually include your current address, to help identify that your Will belongs to you (in case there is more than one A B C Smith living in the same area).
2. Your Executors - these is the person or the people that you will be appointing to deal with your Estate after you have died. They will be responsible for a number of jobs, and you can read more about the full role of an Executor in our blog on the subject.
Our Wills solicitors would always advise clients to appoint someone that they trust to deal with their Estate, after all, this person will be responsible for ensuring that your wishes are carried out.
If you perhaps don’t have a close family member or friend that you would want to appoint, you can always choose to appoint a professional, such as our team of Wills, Trusts and Probate experts.
3. Your Trustees - more often than not, people will appoint the same Executors as Trustees, and the clause in the Will just refers to the appointed people as both. However, if you wish to appoint separate people for both roles, you can. You Trustees, for example, would act in any Trusts of your Will (so, if one of your beneficiaries is a minor when you die, the Trustee would hold their share of the Estate until they attained the legal age to inherit themselves).
4. Funeral Wishes - our Wills solicitors would recommend never going into too much detail in this section, as if you change your mind or your circumstances change, you don’t want to need to change your entire Will.
Instead, we would generally only include a simple direction about whether you prefer cremation or burial or, preferably, we would not include these provisions at all. Instead, they can be typed or written into a separate note to your Executors to be placed alongside your final signed Will. The added benefit of this, is that if you change your mind in the future, you can always remove or alter the note.
5. Gifts of personal items - we will generally ask whether there are any personal items which you wish to gift to anybody. The most common types of gifts that our team sees is items such as jewellery, family memorabilia or sentimental items, or cars. We will need as much description about the gift, as possible,
Another option that our Wills, Trusts and Probate Solicitors often discuss with our clients when they wish to make gifts of person items, is including a clause in your Will which leaves all of your personal items to your Trustees (also the same people, usually, as your Executors) for them to distribute in accordance with any wishes made known to them within 3 months of your death. This could take the form of a letter, verbal expressions made to them, or notes left on items.
6. Gifts of any money - these are referred to as Pecuniary legacies, and you could choose to leave a sum of money to charities, friends, family or an organisation.
The amount you leave is up to you, however, it’s always worth noting that if your Estate value decreases (for example if you have to have care and the fees mean that your estate value has decreased), the gifts would not decrease, and therefore the remainder of your Estate passing to your residuary beneficiaries may also decrease.
To prevent this from happening, some people choose to leave their chosen legatees a percentage of their residuary estate, instead of an outright gift of money.
7. Your residuary estate - this is anything that is left after any liabilities, debts, testamentary expenses, funeral expenses, pecuniary legacies and legal fees have been paid out.
You can choose as many people as you want to divide your residuary estate between, with our Wills, Trusts and Probate Solicitors seeing some Wills naming around 35 people.
At this stage, our local solicitors for Wills would also discuss with you whether you wish to include any longstop provisions, in case the initial beneficiaries predecease you or the clause fails for any other reason. This could be as simple as a clause leaving everything to your initial residuary beneficiaries’ children, or you may want to name completely different people; the choice is yours.
Even though some Wills are more complicated, and may require additional information, the above is a list of the basic information that we would require from all of our Will drafting clients.
When you contact our Wills, Trusts and Probate Solicitors to discuss making a Will, we will arrange an initial appointment with you at your local office, or at your home if this is more convenient, and we will talk you through the above points, step by step, letting you know if we need any further information.