Co-operative Legal Services wills

James Antoniou, Head of Wills for The Co-operative Legal Services shares the importance of making a Will

Why doesn’t making a will, make the to-do list?

Whilst we plan so much of our lives, making a Will or considering who we would want to look after our financial affairs if we were no longer able to, remains an afterthought for many.

Life just gets in the way and naturally we are so busy planning for our immediate future that making a Will either falls off our to-do list, or never makes its way on.

In life, we focus on caring for our loved ones and ensuring their emotional and financial well-being, yet without a valid Will in place, we risk leaving our nearest and dearest with a legacy of uncertainty, financial concerns and emotional worry about our last wishes. In some cases, it’s not uncommon for this to boil over into a family dispute as relatives and loved ones struggle with a lack of certainty about what was intended for whom.

Where to start with writing a will 

When thinking about writing a Will it can be difficult to know where to begin. It can be a good idea to start by mapping your estate as it stands today and think about who you would want to make provision for in some way or another. It will then become easier to prioritise beneficiaries and to test this in the future to ensure that your loved ones will still be provided for if yours or their circumstances change, for example if a new grandchild arrives.

If you use a professional Will writing service, your Will writer will support this process by asking questions to help draw out the relevant details helping you to match your assets with beneficiaries.

It is important to think beyond just monetary assets as many people tend to think of a Will as purely being a financial document. However to avoid any uncertainty for those left behind, it is important to also make any other key wishes known, such as the care of any young children or pets, and the division of sentimental belongings such as jewellery.

If you feel comfortable doing so, it can be a sensible idea to talk your family through the arrangements you are making so that they understand your wishes and are clear on what you want and why. It is also possible to also include a “letter of wishes” alongside your Will. This explains, in your own words, the reasons for deciding who you want to benefit from your estate and also any other personal messages you wish to communicate after you’ve gone.

What else is there to consider?

There are lots of other considerations, which you may not realise are possible when writing your Will.

Remember a charity in your will - Co-operative Legal Services Official PartnerOne example of this is legacy giving, which many charities rely on as a key source of funds. Whilst many people don’t realise this is an option, research from The Co-operative Legal Services has found that this is appealing to many with over half (53 per cent) of UK adults saying that would like to leave a gift to charity in their Will.

For married or co-habiting couples, a Mirror Will may be a sensible option. Where a couple have the same wishes, a Mirror Will essentially enables them to create identical Wills, with each person leaving their assets to the same beneficiaries.

Future Proofing your Will

Once written, it can be easy to simply file and forget about it. However it’s important to remember that your circumstances are likely to change so it’s worth revisiting your Will every few years or as and when there are key changes in your life. Births, marriages, divorce, retirement and the loss of a loved one should all be triggers to re-consider the contents of your Will.

Within your Will it is possible to create Trusts, this will enable you to preserve wealth for future generations or to cater to a specific need for example protecting against residential care costs or helping vulnerable beneficiaries.

Lasting Power of Attorney

Whilst a will sets out your wishes after death, a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a very important document that is effective during your lifetime. If an individual becomes unable to make decisions about their financial affairs or their welfare due to say illness, old age or an accident, there isn’t an automatic right for their next of kin to make decisions on their behalf. By putting in place a LPA, it’s possible to nominate someone you trust to manage your finances or make decisions about your welfare in the event that you are unable to.

Where a LPA isn’t in place, someone (usually a relative) must apply to the court to be appointed a ‘Deputy’ before they are able to deal with matters on that person’s behalf. This can be a long and expensive process at what can already be a stressful and emotional time. If you want to put a LPA in place its essential that you do it at the time you can still make decisions for yourself, it cannot be put in place by your next of kin after you’ve become unable to make decisions.

The two most common ways of putting a LPA in place are either to instruct a legal professional to prepare the documents in accordance with the individual’s wishes, or the individual can take the DIY option and prepare the documentation themselves. In order to activate the LPA, it needs to be registered by the Office of the Public Guardian. A specific application needs to made to do this and there is a court fee of £110 per LPA. It is important that the LPA and application are completed accurately and that individuals fully understand the impact of having a LPA in place.

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This article is an edited version of an article that first appeared in Senior Lifestyle magazine:

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