We are in the midst of a very strange time with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. People are being asked to “self-isolate”, some people are being quarantined, and thoughts are turning to estate planning and getting one’s affairs in order.
We get this question a lot: “Can you let me know how to make a Will for my parents, or an elderly neighbour?” You may have a friend or family member who needs a Will, but they are not very good with computers. You have heard horror stories about the blank DIY Will Kits and how they don’t produce quality final documents. Surely there must be another option.
You may also be thinking about creating a Lasting Power of Attorney for property and financial affairs, or a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Wellfare. Perhaps you’re even considering an Advance Directive.
You may not want to book an appointment with a solicitor. You certainly don’t want strangers coming to your door (or your elderly parent’s door) offering to write a Will. Is it possible to prepare documents for somebody else without an appointment, and without leaving one’s home?
Let’s be clear from the outset. The person that you intend to prepare the Will for must have testamentary capacity. It’s one thing for them to not like computers, but if they are struggling with a cognitive illness like dementia or Alzheimer’s, then this is a non-starter. The person must know that they are working with their Last Will and Testament, they must understand the contents of that document, and they must appreciate the implications of what they are signing.
We would also recommend steering away from this approach if you are planning on making yourself a beneficiary in the Will, particularly if other people have an expectation that they will be beneficiaries, but are going to be disinherited. For example, if you are one of three siblings, and you want to help your elderly mother prepare her Will leaving everything to yourself, there is a good chance that the Will is going to be challenged and ultimately rejected by the courts. Likewise, if you are a care provider and planning to include yourself as a beneficiary, we would not recommend taking this approach.
Every single adult should have a Will in place, but most do not. If you are reading this, you may have given some thought to writing a Will, but not sure how to get started. You have seen different approaches to writing a Will, but you are not sure which services offer a quality, affordable Will writing service, without questionable extras. Hopefully this overview will help you take the next step.
Why you need a Will.
A Will allows you to describe the distribution of your estate. It puts somebody in charge of the process, and it allows you to do things like name a guardian for your children, make charitable bequests and set up trusts.
If you die without a Will, the courts take over. Your family and loved ones will have to work their way through a court process that will eventually do the work of your Will, but probably not the way you would have wanted.
The courts will put somebody in charge of the process. Hopefully this is somebody with the administrative skills needed, and a person who has a good rapport with your family and your beneficiaries. They are going to have to work with the people you have left behind to distribute everything you own according to a legal formula. In the meantime your assets will be frozen.
Then your assets will likely be liquidated and divided according to the laws of “intestate succession”. If you are married without children, then it is possible that your intended distribution plan would match the intestate succession plan. But in almost every other case, your assets will be divided in a very strange way.
What does a Mirror Will mean?
A Mirror Will is actually two Wills, usually created by spouses or partners, that names each other as the main beneficiary, with each Will having a backup plan in case both partners are involved in a common accident. It is one of the most common approaches for couples when preparing their Last Will and Testament.
A Mirror Will is very different to a joint Will which is one document that serves the needs of two people. Joint Wills used to be popular many years ago, primarily as a time saving tool. It saved the Will writer having to type out two very similar Wills, when only the main beneficiary was different.
Joint Wills were also popular in a time when the patriarch of the family was considered to own the assets, and a wife was thought to not have an equal claim over the estate.
However, in modern times joint Wills are rarely used. Attitudes towards asset ownership, and the efficiency of Will writing software means that there is absolutely no advantage in preparing a joint Will. But there are many disadvantages.
The main disadvantage of a joint Will is that it creates confusion when one partner writes a new document revoking previous Wills, and it becomes unclear whether both parties are bound by the terms in the old joint document. In general, joint Wills should be avoided.
What are the different types of Wills?
There are a few other variations on the joint Will or Mirror Will. A Mutual Will is a pair of Wills that a made after a legal agreement is put in place to dispose of combined assets in a certain way. What makes a Mutual Will unique is that neither can be revoked (or cancelled) without agreement from both partners. There are many resources online that describe a Mutual Will as the same as a Joint Will. This is incorrect. Mutual Wills are extremely unusual, and are rarely the best option. Typically one person makes a standard Will, and then contractually ties the second person into an irrevocable Will. It’s a legal challenge waiting to happen!
The term “Reciprocal Will” can also be used in place of either a mutual Will or a Mirror Will. A Reciprocal Will simply means that the two documents have been written to benefit each other. Continue reading
Six Common Estate Planning Mistakes
Estate planning is a critical part of financial planning, but a task that often never quite makes it to the top of your To Do list. Having your final wishes clearly set out can relieve your loved ones of unnecessary stress and financial burdens. To help you along your estate planning journey we have listed 6 common mistakes that anyone can make when writing a Will.
Mistake #1: Assuming that Wills are only for the wealthy
According to a recent YouGov survey, nearly two thirds of the British adult population do not have a Will. Continue reading
How to Choose an Executor for Your Will
Are you struggling with the question of how to choose an Executor for your Will? The role of an Executor is a very important one. You need to make sure that you are making a wise decision. Your Executor will be trusted to take care of the administration of your estate after you die.It is a very important role. You really want to make the right decision when you choose an Executor for your Will.
Here are some questions that you should ask yourself when you are considering who to appoint as your Executor when you write your own Will.
What Does An Executor Actually Do?
It is important to understand what an Executor will actually have to do. This will help you to see if the people you have in mind for the job will be able to take on these tasks. Put simply, the role of an Executor is to carry out the wishes of the deceased person and administer their estate. However, what exactly does this entail? It is very important to know what someone will have to do before you choose an Executor for your Will. Is your choice up to the task? Will they have time to carry out all the duties of an Executor? Continue reading