An introduction to Estate Administration
One of the most common questions asked is “why do I need a will?”
Writing a will is an important step to ensure those we want to inherit from our estate do.
Many people assume that without a will their loved ones will automatically be able to handle their affairs and benefit from it, unfortunately this isn’t always the case. Without a will, the law states who is entitled to inherit.
I have no assets, why do I need a will?
It is almost impossible to guess the circumstances in which we are going to pass away. Although we may not own anything of value, or great sums in our savings account, we could have children that need guardians, a death in service at work that will form part of our estate, a pension to claim or even a holiday insurance claim should something happen abroad.
Home written wills
If your circumstances are straightforward, writing your own will may be the answer. There are many guides available online or from WHSmith. Alternatively, if you are over the age of 55, many solicitors take part in Free Will Writing Month once or twice a year.
What to include in a will?
• Who is going to look after your estate after your death (executors)
• Who should look after children under the age of 18
• Who would you like to benefit from your estate
• Who should benefit from your estate if your beneficiaries die before you
What to include in a will?
• You must be over 18
• Sign it in the presence of 2 witnesses who are both over 18
• Have it signed by your 2 witnesses, in your presence
Note: your witnesses can not be beneficiaries in your will
When to consider a professional written will
Family units are more diverse than ever before, made up of, step relations, half siblings and family members we sadly no longer have contact with. Writing a will can reflect a family situation to ensure family members are protected.
Consider professional advice when:
• Your estate could be taxable
• There are vulnerable beneficiaries
• You are disinheriting close family members
• You have overseas assets
• You own business assets
Hints and tips for will writing
• Ensure your executor knows where your will is being held
• File a copy of your will with your paperwork
• If you are writing your own will check it is valid by a local solicitor
• Never unfasten/unstaple an original will
Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA)
Many of us have experienced the frustration of trying to sort out a bill on someone’s behalf to find the company won’t speak to us as we aren’t the account holder. Imagine trying to look after someone’s entire life with this restriction, challenging?
This is why many people choose to appoint an attorney (one or more) to be able to act on their behalf should they lose capacity and be unable to handle their affairs themselves.
There are two types of LPA:
• Property and Financial Affairs
• Personal Welfare
You can appoint more than one attorney, who can look after your affairs either jointly or severely, meaning that they can act with one signature or alternatively require all attorneys to agree before decisions are made.
No matter how young or old you are, the best time to appoint an attorney is when you are fit and able to do so. Should capacity be lost without these provisions in place, the process of applying through the court (deputyship order), is costly and emotionally distressing for those trying to help their loved one.
Making an LPA
Similar to writing your own will, this is a process you can do yourself. The government website has the application forms available to complete.
Solicitors and estate planning specialists provide the service of drafting and registering LPA on your behalf, of course at a cost. The benefit of having a professional handle the application on your behalf is that they will be familiar with the process and documents, taking away the stress and concern of incorrectly completing the forms.