1: Choose the people who are acting in your Will very carefully
EXECUTORS are the people who will wind up your estate and make sure all of your wishes within your Will are carried out. It is advisable to appoint at least 2 people and if possible a reserve Executor if one (or both) of the named Executors cannot act come the time. Ideally Executors should be younger than you and quite local, but far more important than that, you should have total trust in them. Furthermore, Executors and Trustees (they are usually the same people but do not have to be) do have a great deal of discretionary powers, so you should choose people who have a great deal of common sense. There is a great deal of red tape to this role so it is also a must for your Executors to be someone who is quite comfortable with paperwork and form filling. Of course, you could also appoint a professional i.e., a Solicitor who will charge your estate a fee (either a fixed amount or an hourly rate) after your death. You do not usually have to pay anything up front, although there are schemes whereby you can pay for the administration of your estate now. However there has been a great deal of bad press regarding these schemes so caution must be exercised if you are considering going down this route.
It is often a great help to your Executors to make a list of your assets i.e. properties, banks accounts, investments, shares, mortgage details, life assurance policies etc. Keep this list with your Wills and make sure it is updated as your assets change. Also, with this list state the location of any important documents i.e. property deeds, share certificates etc.
GUARDIANS take over parental responsibility for any minor children if both parents are killed. Of course, this is a very important role so I am sure you would choose the people for this role very carefully. But also think deeper about the people you are considering.
It is a Guardian’s responsibility:
To provide daily care and housing. This includes deciding on options for your child’s education, health and welfare, religious, social and general upbringing, values and morality. Also to ensure that important events such as birthdays, religious holidays, festivities and other pertinent family events are noted and celebrated.
Does their parenting style, values, and religious beliefs match your own?
Who is most able to take on the responsibility of caring for your child? Emotionally, financially, physically, etc.?
Does the person you’re considering have other children? If so, would your child fit in or get lost in the shuffle?
To live with the Guardians, would your children have to leave their School and friends and live in a different part of the country, what effect would this have on the children just after suffering such a large personal loss.
The person you select as guardian may have a huge task ahead. They would have to meet your child’s emotional and physical needs and raise your child to be a competent and fulfilled adult. Take the time to document your hopes and expectations for raising your child in a letter and store it to your will.
2: You may wish to leave sums of money, specific items or heirlooms to family, friends, charities etc.
To avoid any confusion describe any item you are giving very precisely so it cannot be confused in a similar item. Do not state the item by its location (i.e. the grandfather clock in the hall) as this may get moved in the future. Also state clearly the person who is to receive the gift by using their relationship to you and their full name including any middle names, this will avoid confusion should there be a person with a similar name within the family. If you are making gifts to a charity ensure that you have their Registered Charity Number should the charity concerned change their name and/or merge with another charity. Be careful about leaving money to a charity to be used for a certain activity they perform, if at the time of the charity receiving the gift they no longer perform that activity then the gift could fail. You may instead in your Will leave the gift “with the WISH” that it is used for this activity.
3: Who is to receive the rest of your estate and in what quantities i.e. equal shares, percentages?
Do not use specific sums of money in this section of the Will. If you are leaving anything to children, at what age are they to receive it? Also think about what would happen should any of your beneficiaries die before you. For example, if your own children are the main beneficiaries, if they should die before you should their share pass to their children (if they have any) or would you prefer it to be divided between your surviving children. Also is there a chance that you and your children could all die together in an accident. In this circumstance who would you like to inherit then?
4: The Will with your original signatures is the ONLY document that can be used after your death
If this is lost or damaged then you no longer have a Will. Therefore it is critical that you store your Will somewhere safe and make sure your Executors know where it is.
5. Ensure that your Will(s) are reviewed often (approximately every 3-5 years) or in the event of a major change to your personal and/or financial circumstances. For example, the birth of a child, acquiring a large sum of money, divorce and of course marriage. This is extremely important as marriage voids any existing Wills.