As an Estate Planner with many years’ experience, I hear many reasons as to why people won’t make a Will. They range from “it’s too complicated”, “my family will sort it all out when I’m gone”, “if I make a Will, I’ll die” and “it’s too expensive, I can’t afford it right now”.

Well folks, I have news for you, we are all going to die at some point (that’s a fact), dying without a Will (called ‘dying intestate), creates stress and arguments for those left behind, plus a very long drawn out administration process. To prevent all this happening, an experienced Estate Planner will spend time chatting through your options, it doesn’t need to cost a fortune and if you take the view that spending a little bit of money now, it will be the best gift you can leave your family, and it shows them you cared enough about them to make sure they will be alright after your days.

Here are my to 10 tips to make the whole process stress free:

The 10 things you need to think about when making a Will

1. Who do you want to benefit from your estate

Who will get your home, money, belongings? If this is your spouse, that is fine, but think about what would happen if your spouse died before you, or the unthinkable happened and you and your spouse died together? Who would you want to inherit then? Remember that partners have no legal right to inherit, although they may be the parent of your children. If you want your partner to inherit, then make a Will!

2. What age should your children inherit?

If you have children, at what age would you like them to inherit e.g. 18, 21, 25? Children will inherit automatically at 18 years of age, and so if you do not want them to inherit until they are older (25 is the new 18!!), you need to state this in your Will. You would need to appoint ‘Child Trustees’ to manage their money – this person can be the same as your Executor and / or Guardian – and you need to be mindful that by delaying the age at which your children can inherit, can have negative inheritance tax consequences.

3. Guardians?

The importance of appointing Guardians in your Will cannot be overstated. If both parents passed away either together or in quick succession and there are no legally appointed Guardians in place via a current Will, your children would be placed in Foster Care, regardless of the willingness of family members who may wish to take them in. If the chosen Foster Carers are unable to accommodate all the children within the family unit, they may be parted from their siblings until a suitable Guardian is appointed by the Family Court which could take many months. How traumatic would that be for your children?

4. Who do you trust to fulfil the role of Executor?

Being an Executor is not as straightforward as people think. It can be time consuming if your estate is complex and beneficiaries (the people who are inheriting your money) can be challenging and quite demanding. HMRC forms can be difficult to complete if information is not readily available and there can be personal financial liability (risks) to the Executor if they make a mistake when distributing your estate. Choose your Executors carefully, as whilst they may want to carry out your last wishes, they may also wish you had not chosen them – so ask them first!

5. Do you wish to leave legacies in your Will?

A legacy is a specific item to an individual or a defined sum of money to a person or charity. (If you want any charities to benefit you will need the charity name and charity number) Go to: mindful that cash legacies are always paid from the estate first, so whilst it may seem a generous gesture to leave each of your 6 grandchildren £25,000 each, if there is not enough money in the pot after funeral costs and all other expenses, your grandchildren maybe smiling whilst your children may end up with nothing!

6. Values or Percentages?

With the above point in mind, it is often better to forget about leaving cash legacies in your Will and divide your estate into % shares. This way, whether your estate is worth £20,000 or £2,000,000 when you die, your beneficiaries would all receive a ‘slice of the pie’. E.G. if you had 4 children and 8 grandchildren, you could allot a 20% share to each adult child with the remaining 20% being divided equally between your grandchildren.On that note – it is always better to identify grandchildren as a ‘group’ i.e. ‘my grandchildren’, so that if any future babies do come along, you do not have to keep updating your Will every time and no-one gets forgotten about, or left out by accident!

7. What do you want to happen?

Have you thought about funeral direction? Would you want to be buried, cremated or your body donated to medical science? If the latter, there are stringent acceptance rules and only certain hospitals will take your body on death. This needs to be arranged well in advance of your death as there are various forms you will need to sign, giving your full consent, whilst you have mental capacity.
Many clients like the thought of woodland burials (you would need to be dressed in a cotton robe and be buried in a biodegradable coffin) and there are lots of schemes available whereby you can have a tree planted to commemorate your life.What sort of religious context – if any – do you want your funeral service to follow? All these things need to be thought about and if you have strong views which family members may oppose, it is often better to arrange a prepaid funeral plan via one of the large reputable funeral plan companies, to ensure your wishes can be adhered to.And finally on this point, the key thing to note is that funeral wishes are the only part of your Will that are not actually legally binding upon your Executor – so sometimes it is just better to have a detailed conversation with your Executor and then trust them to do their best.

8. Exclusions?

Do you wish to exclude someone from your Will? If so, there are varying schools of thought on how to do this. Many Estate Planners suggest an ‘exclusion clause’ stating the name of the person who is to be disinherited. This can sometimes be like a red rag to a bull, so another suggestion would be to leave that person a reduced amount in your Will. Either way, you should always leave a handwritten letter (more personal and cannot be argued that it was typed by a 3rd party), explaining your personal reasons for not wanting that person to receive what they may perceive as their ‘rightful share’ of your estate.An Exclusion Clause will not prevent a claim on your estate, it just means that you have made it clear you do not wish that person to benefit from any or part of your estate for a given reason. The only way to guarantee preventing a claim against your estate by a disgruntled person is to set up a Lifetime Discretionary Trust at least six years before you die.

9. What happens if…?

It is a depressing thought but if all your beneficiaries died either before you or with you (this is known as total Will failure), who would you wish to be your ‘ultimate beneficiary’? Ultimate Beneficiaries are the back stop or ‘default beneficiaries’ and may be members of your wider family, charities or other organisations you admire and support.

10. Make sure your will is not lost

  1. And finally, to Will storage. You have gone to the time, planning and expense to have a carefully drafted Will drawn up, you have signed, dated and had it witnessed, and then your Executors are unable to find it when you pass away, defeating the whole object of the exercise! The National Will Register (also known as Certainty) are endorsed by the Law Society and for a nominal fee plus VAT, will record the details of who drafted your Will and also offer storage of your Will and other important documents. They can be contacted on

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