Wills: why your older parent should make one?

It is critically important to ask you ageing parent to write a will for a number of reasons:

  • To ensure that those people who they want to benefit from your estate on death receive their entitlement.  These could be relatives, friends or charities
  • If they are married and want to leave everything to their spouse to ensure no Inheritance Tax will be paid on their death.  All gifts to spouses are tax exempt from Tax
  • To leave no uncertainty or ambiguity, which could result in a dispute arising in the absence of a Will

What happens if someone does not make a will?

Rules of intestacy apply:

  • The spouse will receive all personal items and the first £250,000.  In addition they will receive a life interest in half the remainder of the estate
  • The rest of the estate will go to children and this could result in Inheritance Tax being paid
  • Working out the spouse’s entitlement on intestacy may be very complex and costly
  • If there are no spouse and children, the estate will go to more distant relatives, with whom you may have had no contact with for years whilst close friends are excluded

What should someone consider when making a will?

  • Who are to be your Executors?  In other words, who will administer your estate when you die
  • If you have children under 18 years, who will be their guardians?
  • If you want to give relatives or friends legacies, to whom and how much?
  • If you want to benefit charities, which charities and what amount?  Any gift to a charity is exempt from Inheritance Tax (“IHT”)
  • As regards the residue, which is everything that is left after payment of debts, funeral expenses and IHT, who will receive those monies and in what proportions will they be paid?

How can your older relative go about making a will?

Writing your own will

  • If you write your own Will and get it wrong in the way it is signed and witnessed, the Will will be invalid and intestacy rules will apply
  • It is not recommended to write your own Will unless the estate is very small and consists only of money and not of property
  • If you are unclear in the Will, or it is not signed properly, then it could be declared invalid

Using will writers

  • Will writers are an alternative to solicitors, but unlike solicitors they don’t have to be qualified or regulated
  • They tend to be cheaper, but will not be able to advise on tax planning and IHT matters

Using Solicitors

  • They are more expensive, but can give advice and prepare Wills tailored to your individual needs
  • If it is a minor change  this can be done by  codicil – a written amendment to a person’s will, which must be dated, signed and witnessed just as a will would be, and must make some reference to the will it amends

Can you change a will once it is made? The simple answer is yes.

A major change can be made by signing a new will.

A new will revokes any will already made


After death by a deed of variation

A Will which you make can be varied by your Executors and Beneficiaries within two years of your death

All parties affected by the changes must agree and sign a Deed of Variation.  This is usually prepared by a Solicitor.

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