Writing your will is not morbid. It's an act of love.
Whilst the novel coronavirus tears its way, indiscriminately, through the global population, changing our lives beyond recognition for peace-time, and straining our health service beyond its limits, we are all feeling aware of our mortality.
That is why now, more than ever, it is the right time to think about what you want when you die and get your wishes formally documented. It may not be romantic, but one of the kindest things you can do for your loved ones is to create, and keep up-to-date, your Last Will and Testament.
When loved ones are grieving and their world turned upside down by the weight of loss, you can ease the burden by making your wishes known and ensuring that those left behind have things clearly laid out so that they don’t have to second-guess, or fight for, what they think you might have wanted.
So do it now. While you have the time because you can’t go catch a movie, or grab dinner with friends. While you aren't commuting or juggling time away from the family. You have time now.
It doesn’t have to be complicated - in fact the simpler it is, the less often you will need to revisit it. Perhaps a minor update here or there when you gain a new godchild or a circumstance is altered - but the bulk of your decisions won’t change much.
Your Will documents what happens to your money, property, possessions, forgiveness of debt perhaps, and most importantly for parents, it names Guardians for your children, after your death. It is also a place to note what you would like to happen to your body, or the type of funeral would be your preference. We would urge you not to be too demanding, visionary or specific here though as complex wishes can become very stressful for the family to honour in reality. This has always been true, but now even more so, whilst funerals are under strict regulation due to the coronavirus outbreak.
So make some time to think about it, and if you’re in a family unit, sit down with your partner / spouse and have the conversation. We know the subject matter is difficult and painful but ultimately, it needs to be had, so that you decide what happens to your stuff, and not the Government or the Family Courts. It will also help ensure that you and your beneficiaries don’t pay more inheritance tax than they need to.
Once you have considered the basics, like who would be your beneficiaries, who should act as Executor (the person who oversees the distribution of assets and that your wishes are carried out), and how you might split your assets and in what proportion, your next step is to contact your Solicitor, or use on online service (such as those offered by Farewill, Beyond or Irwin Mitchell Solicitors) to get it written up.
To get a will written up by a Solicitor costs in the region of £250 - 500 depending on the complexity of your wishes. The best online services are typically around the £150 mark.
Things to consider
If you are unmarried, your will should make provision to protect your partner or fiancé as they are legally not allowed to make a claim on your estate without a marriage certificate no matter how long you have been together
If your family home is in your name, your unmarried partner wouldn’t be automatically in line to inherit if they weren’t formally mentioned by name
You can leave them a share of the property, or declare their ‘right-to-reside’ in the property in your will protecting them from being forced to move out of your shared home
God-parents are not legally binding so you need to formally document who you would like to be the legal guardian of your children up until they are 18 years of age
Think about how your children are going to be provided for financially - consider putting money aside for their education, a regular monthly living allowance, or a nest-egg to help buy a home or achieve a dream later in life
Leaving assets in trust gives you some element of control over how your children spend your money
If you wish to provide for step-children or foster children it is imperative that you name them since standard reference to ‘your dependents’ will cover blood relatives only
Nominate someone to look after your pets and make provision for their vet bills and food alongside this so that your pet doesn’t become a financial burden to someone
Don’t forget your digital assets. Things like photographs, music, movies, any Intellectual Property owned as part of your business can be passed on.
It is also prudent to specify what you want to happen to email accounts & social media profiles. Consider if you want them destroyed, or whether you want to pass the access rights on to a named beneficiary.
Often, those who are preparing for the end of their life, share passwords with family members in person to avoid any digital trail.
You may wish to leave some money to a charity after your passing, and this can be stipulated in your will.
If you leave more than 10% to a good cause, this can also reduce the amount of inheritance tax your family pay.
Signing & Witnessing
Your Will is only legally valid when it has been formally witnessed and signed.
This is another process which is being impacted by social distancing measures as it cannot be witnessed by any of the people mentioned within the document, so it is likely to need to be signed by someone outside of your household.
To work within the current restrictions, Solicitors are recommending the following:
Get in touch with a neighbour who would be willing to witness your Will signing (this involves them signing it too)
Set up a time for them to watch you sign it through a window (either you standing on their driveway or them on yours!)
Pass the document through a letter box, or leave it out for them to pick-up, maintaining a 2m distance at all times
Repeat the process with them signing and you witnessing through the window.
Once signed, your document is legally valid, although it is worth noting this does not mean ‘legally binding’ in the case that you may have directed something which cannot legally be carried out when your Will is executed.
Your solicitor or online service will store your Will for you for a lifetime or annual fee. This is recommended if you wish your solicitor to act as your Executor, but storage by a third party is not mandatory.
We recommend making physical and digital copies of your will and storing it in a few places. One at home for your own records, one with an executor or family member from a different household, and your soft copy online on a secure storage system like Lifefyle.
Hopefully we have convinced you that writing a will doesn’t have to be a Herculean effort. Trust us, in that once the decisions are made and the conversations held, you will feel a huge sense of reassurance… it really is up there on the top of the list of “most useful things you can do during Lockdown”.
And your family will thank you deeply when the time comes that it needs to be dusted off and read. Go on, just do it.
For more advice on writing your will, and to add a reminder to your Lifefyle account, click here.