What Should I Include in My Will?

Writing a will is key to ensuring that your estate is left to your loved ones, but how many of us know what to include in one?

While the thought of dying isn’t a fun one, it is vital to have a valid will in place. Without one, your estate will be subject to intestacy rules, putting it at risk of being distributed in a way that goes against your wishes.

We cover five key things to include in your will so you can rest assured that your assets go to the right people:

Your Executor

Naming your executor is one of the most important things to include in your will. Your executor is the person responsible for sorting out your affairs and distributing your estate in accordance to the terms of your will.

Their responsibilities include valuing your estate, paying off any debts, selling property, closing accounts, and giving out assets to the beneficiaries that are named in your will. It is no easy task and can become complicated even if the instructions laid out in your will are relatively simple – in fact, it’s common for the process to take several months. For this reason, it is important to appoint someone who can dedicate themselves to all that being an executor entails.

For example, it might fall on the executor to decide when to sell the property so that those who inherit the proceeds can gain the most money from it. Moreover, they must make sure that the correct amount of Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax, and Income Tax is paid.

Who can be an executor of a will?

You can choose anyone you wish to be your executor, but it ought to be someone who is likely to outlive you and who will act in the best interest of your beneficiaries. More often than not, people choose someone close to them to fill this role, such as their spouse, civil partner, relative, or friend.

It is a good idea to appoint more than one executor in case one of them passes away before you do or if they renounce probate (refuse to act in their role as executor). Whoever you choose, at least one of your executors must be aged eighteen or over at the time of applying for probate.

The bottom line is anyone can be an executor of your will, but you should choose someone who you can rely on to follow the instructions set out in your will and to find fair solutions to any disputes.

Your Funeral Wishes

It is worth considering your funeral wishes when you are writing your will, such as whether you would like to be cremated or buried. You could also specify what music you would like to be played at your funeral. However, you should also make your loved ones aware of your funeral wishes in case they begin making arrangements before they have read the will.Bear in mind though that under current law, funeral wishes are not legally binding in a will. Technically, your appointed executors are considered the decision-makers with regards to funeral arrangements.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t put your funeral wishes in your will, but it is worth putting detailed wishes (e.g., the funeral venue, choice of flowers, and donations to a specific charity) in a separate document that is kept safely with your will. This way, you can make changes to your funeral plans without having to edit your will each time.

Legal Guardians for Your Children

If you have children under the age of eighteen, then you can include provisions for their care in your will by choosing someone to step in as their legal guardian if you or their other parent dies.

The roles and responsibilities of legal guardians include day-to-day care of your surviving children and making decisions surrounding education, health, and welfare on their behalf.

Whoever you have in mind, make sure to speak to them before making your will. Agreeing to take on a legal guardianship of your children is an huge responsibility, so you need to be certain that they are willing and able to take on the role should the need arise.

You may also want to appoint substitute guardians to take their place if your intended guardians pass away.

Your Assets

You should also include the size of your estate in your will. One of the main purposes of making a will is to be clear about who will inherit your money and assets after your death. To do this though, you will need to consider not just what you currently own, but what you may own at the time of your passing.

Your estate is the collective term of everything you own. This will include any property you own in your sole name, as well as any other assets, such as:

  • Savings and any of your building society accounts
  • Insurance (e.g., life insurance)
  • Pension funds
  • Investments, stocks, and shares
  • Cars and any other motor vehicles
  • Jewellery, antiques, and other personal belongings
  • Furniture and other household items

You should not include any property that is owned jointly with another person in your will as your share will automatically pass to them on your death. If you own a property jointly with someone else as tenants in common though, then your share of the property can be included in your will.

Your Beneficiaries

Once you have figured out the value of your estate, you then need to choose your beneficiaries – the people who will inherit the estate after your death. In general, you can choose anyone to be a beneficiary, such as a friend, relative, spouse, organisation, charity, or executor of your will. There is also no limit to how many beneficiaries you can appoint.

However, bear in mind that the people you leave gifts to can effect the amount of Inheritance Tax your estate is liable to pay. For instance, gifts to some beneficiaries like your spouse or a charity will usually be exempt from Inheritance Tax.

To learn about the rules of Inheritance Tax and how it is applied to your estate, it is a good idea to seek advice from a professional will writer.

Legacy Wills and Probate

Legacy Wills and Probate is a leading provider of online will writing services and professional advice. For more information on our will writing services and how we can support you, don’t hesitate to get in touch today.

Call our friendly team on 0333 344 4325 or email us directly at sales@legacywillsandprobate.com. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.