A Will is an essential document, helping you to provide for your family after you’ve gone. Whatever 2024 holds for you, we look at why creating or reviewing your Will should be at the top of your list of New Year’s resolutions.
The beginning of the year is traditionally a time to reflect on our priorities and make plans for the months ahead.
While our goals are often tied to health, career or personal ambitions, this is also the perfect opportunity to ensure your affairs are in order by creating a Will – arguably one of the most important steps you can take to plan for the future and protect your loved ones.
Why create a will?
A Will is a legal document that sets out your wishes after you're gone, allowing you to specify what will happen to the assets you've built up over your lifetime.
It's particularly critical to put one in place if you have children, own property, have savings or investments, or run a business. Without a Will, you lose any control over who receives your assets when you pass away.
Unfortunately, there are still large numbers of adults in the UK yet to organise this, with one survey finding 53% adults do not have a Will in place.
This is significant as it means the state decides how your estate is distributed when you pass away, using a strict set of criteria called intestacy laws. These rules prioritise the spouse, which can affect the inheritance rights of any children, and they do not recognise unmarried couples, so your assets may not be divided as you would have wished.
On the other hand, putting a Will in place allows you to:
- appoint a guardian for your children
- provide for your loved ones
- pass on family heirlooms
- make gifts to charities, friends and family
- maximise your assets by planning for Inheritance Tax
- choose people you trust to handle your affairs
- avoid family disputes
With many good reasons for making a Will, this should certainly be a top priority for 2024.
How to create a will
As a formal document, it's important your Will is properly drafted in order to meet legal requirements. While it's possible to do this yourself using a template, it's always better to instruct a solicitor to write your Will. This ensures it’s valid, accurately reflects your estate and your wishes, and allows you to plan for Inheritance Tax.
The process of creating a Will depends on your individual circumstances and your solicitor will discuss the different elements of your estate and what you’d like to do with this. If you have a more complicated family situation, are a business owner or have other additional requirements, they can advise on the best way to structure your Will to ensure this fully meets your needs.
Once you have created a Will, it's a good idea to talk to your family about your wishes. This can help to avoid any misunderstandings or disputes in the future and make it easier for them to deal with everything when the time comes.
When to review your will
If you already have a Will in place, make it a New Year’s resolution to review this.
Big life events can impact your circumstances: perhaps you have changed career, moved home, got married or divorced, or welcomed a new baby to the family? Alongside this, global and national issues, such as the cost of living crisis, can also impact your finances or business interests.
It's therefore beneficial to make sure your Will is up to date and reflects any changes in your situation.
Areas to consider include:
- Do you need to change your beneficiaries or executors?
Many people need to change the people that are named in their Will for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you have outlived executors or beneficiaries, or maybe the relationship has deteriorated. In this case, you would need to replace them in your Will to avoid complications in the event of your death.
- Have your business interests changed?
It's a challenging economic climate for businesses. If your business interests have changed significantly, now might be a good time to review both your Will and your succession plan.
- Do you wish to take advantage of Inheritance Tax planning?
It's always advisable to review your Will and estate regularly in line with current tax legislation, reliefs, and opportunities to save on Inheritance Tax thresholds. This can be a great way to start the year: it allows you to understand where you are financially and make effective plans for the future.
How we can help you create your Will
You may have a good idea about what you want your Will to address or you may not know where to start.
Our experienced Wills & Probate team are here to help, so you can feel confident your Will covers everything it needs to. We discuss the various considerations and listen to your thoughts and concerns, advising on:
- How to structure your Will to make sure your assets are passed on in the way you’d like.
- The options available for those with more complicated family arrangements.
- How you can use your Will to pass on your business, or family farm, to the next generation.
- Protecting your assets with succession planning and establishing trusts in your Will.
- The Inheritance Tax rates and implications of the provisions of your Will.
Our Probate & Wills team provides practical legal advice on all estate planning and inheritance matters, helping you put the right solutions in place to protect yourself and your family in the future.