Give yourself some peace of mind

The only way you can have peace of mind that everything will be alright after you’ve gone is to make your Will – and if you made a Will a while ago and your circumstances have changed, it’s time for a review.
Many of those who we meet when making their first Will have a number of misconceptions and don’t really understand how their will is made up.
Let’s get a couple of things out of the way first and foremost. There’s no mystique in preparing a Will. It should be a straight forward document setting out what you want to happen with everything you own after you’ve gone – and that’s where we need to start.
Appointing an executor
You need to appoint somebody who’s going to follow the instructions you give in your Will. It should be someone you believe will be able to deal with that task quickly and efficiently – and who is likely to be around after you’ve gone! That person is called your Executor – and you can appoint more than one Executor to take account of a situation where an Executor passes away before you do.
Once you’ve decided who to appoint as your Executor you can then start to list all the things you own – your assets – and any money you owe anyone – your liabilities.
Your assets and liabilities
Do you own your home? Is it in your own name or do you own it with someone else – your spouse, your partner? Do you have money in the bank? Do you have any insurance policies, pensions or shares? Do you have any special (valuable) jewellery, furniture, artwork or antiques? What if you own a business – do you need to make any special arrangements for that?
Make a list of everything and if you do that you’ll get an idea of how much your estate is likely to be worth.
Once you’ve made your list of assets you should think about how much you owe people. Do you have a mortgage? Do you have an overdraft with your bank or credit cards with an outstanding balance? These are liabilities that have to be deducted from the assets you own.
Yes, it is a very “liquid” situation because things like credit card balances and overdrafts can go up and down as can the amount of savings you have. This part of the exercise if designed to get you thinking about these and how they’ll be dealt with after you’ve passed away – whatever they value at that time.
What do you want to leave to whom?
OK, now you have a list of assets and liabilities. What you now have to do is decide how you want them dealt with.
It’s important to recognise the relationship you have with your spouse or partner, whether you’re married or cohabiting and whether you have children with your partner or if either of you have had children with other people. The reason for this is that children are entitled to something called Legal Rights in their parent’s estate and these apply whether you make a Will or not. We will, of course, explain what Legal Rights are and how these can affect the distribution of your estate.
Legacies and Bequests
Start to think about who you want to leave your estate to – how you wish it to be distributed. It sometimes helps if you think about specific things first – lawyers call them legacies and bequests.
If, for instance, you’d like to leave some money or other assets to charity, it’s good to name the charity or charities and how much or what they should receive. This can be a sum of money or a percentage of your estate or a specific object.
If you’d like to leave specific personal items to members of your family or to friends, you should list what these items are and who they are to be given to. It’s not unusual for items of jewellery to be left to specific members of the family.
What about your house?
What do you want to happen with the house you own – and don’t be fooled, this can be complicated! Much will depend about whose name the house is in and, if it’s in joint names, whether there is something called a “survivorship destination” in the title – that would mean that on your death, the house would automatically go to the other person with whom you owned the property – and it doesn’t matter what your Will says about that! This aspect can be pretty technical, so you really should speak to us about it.
If your home is in your name alone but you have a spouse or a partner, then you need to think about what should happen to it after you’ve gone. Do you want to transfer ownership to your spouse or partner or do you simply want to give them the right to live in the property until they pass away and then have the property sold and the proceeds divided amongst children and/or grandchildren? You see, it’s not just about splitting up assets and settling liabilities. It’s about giving your loved ones peace of mind after you’ve gone.
Everything else – the residue
Then there’s everything else – we call it your “residue or your estate”. It’s important to cover this even if you’ve been very specific in listing the things or sums of money you’ve decided to leave to people. The reason for including this is to ensure that everything in your estate is dealt with properly. If you have a very detailed will listing everything you own at the time you make your Will but don’t have a clause that deals with the residue then if you acquire additional assets before you pass away but don’t indicate what should happen to them, then without a clause that sets out what should happen to the residue, that part of your estate would become “intestate” and wouldn’t necessarily be dealt with as you would wish.
What about young children?
There are also other things you need to consider that are nothing to do with money and property. If you have young children, who do you want to look after them if you (and your spouse or partner) should pass away whilst they’re still too young to look after themselves?
Other things to think about?
If you own property abroad, have you made provision for that in any Will you’ve made in that country? Different laws of succession apply in different countries and it’s important that you ensure you deal with that as well.
What about your funeral arrangements? Do you want to be buried or cremated and do you have any special instructions relating to that?
Finally, please do discuss your proposals with your family. It helps greatly if they are aware of the position and understand what you’re trying to achieve. They might not all be happy with what you propose but if you discuss your decisions with them it’ll help avoid misunderstandings after you’ve gone.
If you need help to prepare or review your Will, get in touch
We’re happy to help and will explain all of the ins and outs of making your Will and the options you have on every point along the way.
If you’ve made a decision to make your Will – and we would urge you to do that – or if you have a Will that you’d like to update, please call us on 0141 647 9851 or click here to email us.