Our wills and probate expert, Chaanah Patton, answers your questions about making or reviewing a will. If you have a query you would like her to address, email firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s lots of decisions to be made when you draw up a will. This month, Chaanah outlines the main who, whats and hows…
Is there chance to review the decisions that form the basis of my will – can I change my mind?
We understand that it is difficult to make all of the important decisions that comprise a will at our initial meeting. Therefore, if you change your mind once we have sent you the draft version, it can be amended easily before it is finalised.
Even after signing your will, it is a good idea to review it every five years or so to make sure it still reflects your wishes. Milestone moments in life can have a big impact and you should definitely organise an official evaluation in the following cases:
- Someone you named in your will dies.
- You have children or grandchildren – you might want to change the allocation of your assets, or add a guardianship clause to look after young children.
- You get married – in England and Wales, marriage revokes any existing will, so even if the terms are to remain the same, it will need redrafting.
- You get divorced – a will isn’t revoked by divorce, but in England and Wales, your ex-spouse or civil partner wouldn’t benefit. However, if you die before your divorce is finalised i.e. you are technically still married, they would still receive your assets.
Small amendments, such as altering the executors or adding a legacy, can be done by creating a codicil. If you are making significant changes to your will, it can be simpler to create a new one. You should never alter the original document.
I would always recommend seeking professional advice before committing to changes to your will, as they might be affected by recent legislation, such as tax updates.
Are there specific rules that have to be followed when making a will?
The basic rules are that a will has to be drawn up voluntarily and recorded in writing. You must be 18 or over and of sound mind and finally, it has to be signed by two adult witnesses in your presence and they must observe your signature.
To be legally valid, you cannot leave your witnesses (or their married partners) anything in your will. There are other rules to follow, but they vary depending on the type of document you require and the clauses you include.
How many executors do I need?
Executors are the people you choose to carry out the terms of your will. They are responsible for administering your estate and seeing that your instructions are followed.
Family, friends or professional advisers, such as solicitors or accountants, can act as executors, although the latter might charge for their services. You can nominate up to four at a time but most people appoint at least two individuals. This not only allows the burden of work to be shared, but also ensures greater security, because one’s actions will be checked by the other and vice versa.
In some circumstances, you are legally obliged to appoint two people to deal with your assets, for example, if you are putting property in trust as part of your will.
If you have young children, you may wish to withhold assets until they reach a certain age (18 to 25). In these circumstances, you can give your executors further power to handle your money and use it to benefit the individuals who are to inherit.