Can I include my pet in my will? | Providing for your pets by leaving money in a pet trust in your estate plan 

Paws-itively Secure Pets! Ensuring Pets Have Long-Term Financial Security Through your Estate Plan

We all love our pets and you will want to make sure your pet is taken care of even after we’re gone. Pets can be part of the family, so it makes sense that you would want your pet to be provided for in your Will or Trust! But what do you need to know when putting your financial plan in place for your furry (or scaly) friends?

In this article, we’ll discuss how you can ensure that you care for your pet with long-term financial security through Wills and Trusts. So let’s get started on creating a plan that will give your beloved pet the best chance at living their best life!

Creating a Pet Trust

Pets Cannot Inherit from Their Owners – Establish a Pet Trust for Care

The law considers pets to be property (your personal tangible property), which highlights the importance of creating a trust to provide for their care when their owners pass away. Pets cannot directly inherit from their owners – you cannot leave money or property to a pet, so it is important to establish a legal pet trust to ensure they will be cared for and provided for financially in the event of the owner’s death.

A pet trust allows an owner to name a guardian who will be responsible for the pet’s care, designate funds to cover costs such as veterinary bills and grooming, and set out instructions on how these funds should be used.

Without a properly established pet trust, there is no guarantee that any money left in a Will or estate would actually go towards taking care of your pet—it could easily get absorbed into other costs and debts associated with your estate. Pets also have limited legal rights and are unable to inherit property directly, so having a legally recognized document like a pet trust is essential if you wish to provide for them after you pass away.

You can create a Pet Trust directly in your Will

Any Will created at LegalWills gives you the option of preparing a pet trust.

Creating a Pet Trust at LegalWills
Creating a Pet Trust at LegalWills

The Pet Trust option at LegalWills doesn’t rely simply on leaving an amount to a caregiver. The total amount is paid out in a single lump sum to the caregiver, but it calculated based on the age of the pet at the time of your death, and the life expectancy of the pet. You can then specify an annual sum and this would be multiplied by the forecasted number of pet care years.

According to https://www.pdsa.org.uk/ the lifetime cost of a dog for example ranges from £5000-£12,200. Monthly costs can be up to £75 a month.

According to Statista, the average yearly cost of owning a dog in the UK is £1,875, as of January 2022. 

This graphic from the PDSA gives an estimate of some other pets.

Cost of caring for a pet
From PDSA

What does a Pet Trust clause look like?

At LegalWills we insert the following clause into our Wills based on the information shown in the graphic above:

Gift for Care of Animal

This gift shall leave a sum of money as a bequest payable to Janey Smith PROVIDED THAT Janey Smith looks after my Chihuahua, named Tyson, free of tax for Tyson’s upkeep and maintenance (hereinafter called “Tyson’s fund”). If this person is unable or unwilling to act for any reason, then Tyson’s fund should be paid to Bobby Green PROVIDED THAT Bobby Green serves in place of Janey Smith. In other words, you want to make sure your beloved Chihuahua named Tyson is taken care of when you pass away. So, by setting up a trust fund, you can take care of your pet by leaving some money as a gift to Janey Smith, but only if she agrees to take care of Tyson without having to pay taxes on the money used for his upkeep and maintenance. If Janey can’t do it, then the money will go to Bobby Green, so long as he agrees to take care of Tyson instead.

The amount of Tyson’s fund is to be calculated on the basis of Tyson’s age at the date of my death.  Let’s assume for example, that Tyson’s life expectancy is 10 years of age, and that the average annual cost of Tyson’s upkeep and maintenance is £2,000. Tyson’s fund will therefore be an amount calculated by multiplying the annual sum of £2,000 by the number of full years and full months between the date of my death and December 31, 2030 (the end of the life expectancy of Tyson, poor little guy). In the unfortunate event that the pet dies before the date of my death then this gift shall fail.

Pets should be named explicitly in the trust, including their breed, age and gender.

It is important to include each pet’s specific details in the pet trust in order to ensure they are properly identified and provided for according to an owner’s wishes. Pets of different breeds may require different levels of care, so including a pet’s breed in the trust is important for making sure any funds set aside can cover the particular needs of that type of pet.

Additionally, age and gender may also affect decisions about what kind of living arrangements are best for a pet; for instance, older pets may need more frequent visits to the vet or require more specialized care than younger ones. By providing these details in the trust, owners can ensure that their pets will receive appropriate care based on their individual needs after they pass away.

Add specific instructions for the care of the pet in your estate plan, such as providing an appropriate diet and veterinary care, regular exercise and any other necessary attention.

We don’t recommend including this information in the Will itself, but in a letter than accompanies the Will. Your Last Will and Testament is a legal document (in a sense, a contract) which implies that there would be repercussions for not following the instructions, and somebody would have to monitor the care of the pet. If the instructions are included in a separate letter, they are your wishes which serve as a guideline for the pet’s care.

Including specific instructions for the care of your pet in the pet trust is vital to making sure they get the love, care and attention they need after you pass away. Pets require a variety of different types of care depending on their breed, age and gender; for instance, older pets may need more frequent visits to the vet or special treatments for age-related illnesses.

Additionally, including instructions about regular vet check-ups and preventative health care is important for maintaining a pet’s overall health and well-being over time. Ultimately, providing detailed instructions in your pet trust will ensure that your beloved companion is being cared for properly even in your absence.

Pets can be left to someone who is willing to take responsibility for them, known as a guardian or caretaker.

When choosing a guardian or caretaker make sure they understand their responsibility and are financially able to provide for the pet’s needs.

When leaving a pet in your will, it is important to name someone who is willing to take responsibility for them as their guardian or caretaker. This person should understand the commitment they are taking on and be financially secure enough to provide for all of the pet’s needs.

Pets require both physical and emotional care, so it is important to choose a guardian who is both able and willing to provide that kind of attention over time. Pets also often have special dietary requirements, medical needs or exercise routines that will need to be taken into account, so making sure the guardian understands these needs ahead of time can help ensure that the pet receives appropriate care down the road.

Additionally, it may also be helpful to include them in your estate with a trust specifically for the care of your pet; this way the guardian can rest assured knowing there is money available if unexpected costs arise in the future.

You should not leave your pet alone without a guardian in your estate plan

If this happens then it becomes the court’s decision on how they wish to manage the situation. In most cases they may appoint someone to be the pet’s guardian or they may even donate the pet to an animal shelter.

When leaving a pet in one’s will, it is important to name someone as their guardian or caretaker who is willing to take on the responsibility of looking after and caring for the pet. Pets require physical and emotional care, so this person should be both able and willing to give the pet the attention it needs over time.

Pets often have specific dietary requirements, medical needs or exercise routines that must be taken into account when providing care. The guardian should understand these needs ahead of time, to ensure that the pet receives all of the necessary care and attention they need once the owner has passed away.

Additionally, making arrangements for your pet in a trust specifically for the pet’s care can help ensure that any unexpected costs down the line are covered appropriately.

You should set aside funds that align with what is necessary for their care. 

The amount of money left will depend on factors such as how old and healthy the pet is. It is recommended that no less than £1,500 per year per pet be specified in a trust fund so that their medical needs and vet care can be taken care of over their lifetime.

Should you decide to set aside money for your pet in a trust specifically for the care of pets, arrangements should be made to align with the expenses of your pet as closely as possible. Pets have unique and often specific needs when it comes to their diet, exercise and health that must be taken into consideration when deciding how much to contribute to a pet trust. Making these arrangements for your pet in your estate plan, will give the caregiver for your pet the funds they need to take good care of your pet after you die. 

Careful planning of the contribution amount to a pet trust can ensure that any unexpected costs or medical expenses down the line are covered appropriately. Pets also require ongoing vet visits throughout their lives, as well as regular preventative health care such as vaccinations and flea/tick prevention, which all cost money. Additionally, older pets may need special treatments such as medication or surgery if age-related illnesses arise. It is important to consider these events in your estate plan to make sure your pet is cared for should they happen. Pets are well cared for when their owners receive the money they need to provide that care.

All of these costs can add up quickly over time, making it difficult for one person to cover them all without prior preparation. By estate planning for pets, specifically leaving money for the care of a pet, you are ensuring that these costs will be provided for should your pet outlive you, and leave your pet in good care.

Make sure all care instructions are written down clearly and included while estate planning for pets, as well as leaving detailed instructions with the named pet guardian or caretaker. 

When it comes to estate planning for pets, it’s crucial to ensure that all care instructions are written down clearly and included in your estate planning documents. This will help ensure your pet is cared for and give you peace of mind that your provided money will be used effectively by the trustee of your pet trust. These instructions should cover everything from your pet’s feeding and exercise routines to any medications they may need. It’s important to be as specific and detailed as possible, so there’s no confusion about how to properly care for your pet. These details are needed for your beneficiary to use the money how you intend as the new pet owner.

It’s a good idea to update your pet owner’s instructions regularly as your pet ages, especially if there are any changes to your pet’s health or behaviour. For example, if your pet develops a new medical condition, you’ll want to make sure that their caretaker is aware of this and knows how to properly manage it. This way, your caregiver will be able to use the money effectively from your pet trust with the help of your updated instructions. 

You may also want to provide information about your pet’s personality and any particular likes or dislikes they have. For instance, if your pet is shy or anxious, it’s important to let their caretaker know how to approach them and make them feel comfortable. Similarly, if your pet has a favourite toy or enjoys a certain type of treat, providing this information can help their caretaker create a positive and nurturing environment for them.

In conclusion, when planning for the care of your pets after you pass away, it’s important to make sure that all care instructions are clearly written down and included in your estate planning documents. It’s also crucial to choose a trusted pet guardian or caretaker and leave detailed instructions with them about how to properly care for your pet. By taking these steps, you can ensure that your furry friend will be well taken care of even after you’re gone.

A word on charitable bequests

Your Will is also a perfect place for recognizing the work of animal charities. If there is a particular animal charity that means a lot to you, for example, the humane society, you can leave money to that charity to help them to further their work. This charitable bequest can be a cash gift, a percentage of your residuary estate, or even personal possessions (although I would check with the animal charity before donating personal chattels.

Create Pet Trust today using LegalWills

Using the service at LegalWills you can prepare a legally binding Will including a pet trust with a pet guardian. The cost for the Will service is £39.95 and the whole process takes about 20 minutes.

We suggest that you get started right now, even if you don’t know exactly what you would like to include in your pet clause.

We also strongly recommend that you review your Will from time-to-time to make sure that it is always kept up to date.

My parents didn’t have a Will. This is what I did.

I am one of the co-founders of LegalWills. We offer online Will writing services for the UK (through LegalWills.co.uk), Canada (through LegalWills.ca) and the US (through USLegalWills.com). Over the last 20 years, over half a million Wills have been created using the tools developed by Henry Raud and myself, Tim Hewson. On a trip back to the UK to visit my parents, they admitted that they didn’t have an up-to-date Will themselves “but it will be alright, it’s obvious what will happen anyway. It will all go to each other, and then it will all go to the two of you, our children”.

It’s a common misunderstanding. The assets may perhaps eventually end up with the right people, but having a Will certainly makes it simpler. Besides, I own a Will writing business, so it would reflect poorly on my powers of persuasion if I couldn’t convince my own parents that their children would be much better positioned if there was a Will in place, even if the distribution of the assets was obvious.

I explained that using our own tool, the process would take about 20 minutes, and that I could give them a break on the £39.95 price-tag.

Even though my own parents didn’t have an email account, or internet access, I would be able to help them step through the service. They would be able to have their legal Last Will and Testament in their hands in half an hour.

Three years later, and both of my parents have passed away. The Wills gave us no issues whatsoever with the probate office. I am in full receipt of my inheritance, and there were absolutely no process disadvantages to having used LegalWills.co.uk to create my parents’ Wills.

This article gives you an overview of the Will writing process and probate process.

Meeting with my parents to write their Will

Gathering the Required Information

There are some key pieces of information that need to go into a Will. You need to name an Executor (or more than one Executor), and you need to know the plan for distributing the assets. There are more details like guardians for minor children, trusts for minors and pet trusts, but for the purposes of my parent’s Wills, the key information was knowing their choice of Executor and asset distribution.

If you are unsure of your parent’s wishes, at LegalWills.co.uk we provide an “Information Collection Worksheet” that can be printed. You can then sit with your parents and gather the information in an interview style to be entered into the service at a later date.

Gathering information to write a Will with your parents
Information Collection Worksheet

Of course, the service at LegalWills.co.uk is fully responsive in design. This means that you can use it on your phone, tablet or iPad. The service will render perfectly on the screen which allows you to enter the information directly into the service if you have a data connection.

Can you name a non-UK resident as the Executor of a Will?

The service at LegalWills.co.uk guides you through the process of preparing a Will, with online help and documentation available every step of the way. One question that comes up from time-to-time is whether an adult child, living overseas, can be named as an Executor. I can say from experience that yes, there are absolutely no issues with this whatsoever. I was named as Executor to my parents’ UK Wills, as a Canadian resident and citizen. It did not cause any problems at all. I was able to submit all of the appropriate forms to the probate office by post.

Entering the information into LegalWills.co.uk

LegalWills.co.uk guides you through ten sections to prepare a Will. You may know much of the information, like the name, family status, children, grandchildren. If you have gathered information using the worksheet, you may know the Executor appointments.

Naming an Executor
Naming an Executor to the Will at LegalWills.co.uk

For the distribution of assets, you may know that everything will pass to the spouse, with the children named as alternate beneficiaries. But perhaps there is a pet trust, or a charitable bequest.

It is very common for somebody to leave for example, £5,000 to a charity, and then the remainder to go to their family.

At LegalWills.co.uk we also allow you to make provision in your Will for lifetime interest trusts. So for example, if a spouse is not the biological parent of the children, they may receive use of the estate for the rest of their life, but at the end of their life, it passes to the children.

You do not need a complete list of assets to work through the Will service. However, it is extremely useful for the Executor to have a list of assets when it comes to gathering the estate. To assist with this, LegalWills.co.uk offers the MyLifeLocker service.

We strongly recommend that you sit down with your parents and work through the LifeLocker service to understand the full extent of their assets. Otherwise, you will be required to do this after they have passed away without any input from them – a much more difficult task.

Executor Handbook
The LifeLocker service at LegalWills.co.uk

Signing and Dating the Will

As soon as you have stepped through the Will service and answered all of the questions, the document is compiled and can then be downloaded as a PDF file and printed.

To make this document a legal Will it must then be signed in the presence of any two adult witnesses. The witnesses can be friends, neighbours or even family members if they are not beneficiaries in the Will. Once the document is signed and witnessed, it is a fully legal document.

Storing the Will

The printed, signed Will must then be stored in a place that is known and accessible to the Executor. The probate office will not readily accept a photocopy or scanned Will. For this reason it is vital that the Executor can access the original document, signed in ink. (I use the term “Probate Office” as a descriptor – it is actually HM Courts & Tribunals Service that receive and process probate applications).

This also means that storing the document on your computer, or a picture of it on your phone, is not going to be accepted by the probate office. Often, the best choice is to simply give the document to your Executor in a sealed envelope for safe keeping.

Freezing of Assets

When somebody dies, their assets are typically frozen by the financial institutions holding the money. You cannot present a Will to a bank and expect that bank to give you access to the money. The bank doesn’t know if a subsequent Will was written, or whether this Will is being contested. They do not want to risk handing the assets in the account to the wrong person. However, each bank has its own level of risk tolerance. In general if an estate is worth more than about £5,000, probate will be required. But each bank has their own threshold.

Aviva – £50,000

AXA – £10,000

Barclays – £50,000

Britannia – £30,000

Cheltenham & Gloucester – £25,000

Co-op Bank – £30,000

Halifax – £50,000

HSBC – Decided on a case-by-case basis.

Lloyds TSB – £50,000

Nationwide – £50,000

Natwest – £25,000

NS&I – £5,000 to £15,000 depending on the will and the number of Executors

Post Office – £10,000

Santander – £50,000

All of these numbers are approximate guides, and it really depends on your relationship with the bank, and the banks perceived risk of giving the money to the wrong Executor.

It is worth noting that if any one of the financial institutions holding an asset in the estate request a “Grant of Probate” then the Will needs to be probated.

Calculating Inheritance Tax to be paid

In the UK, the Inheritance Tax threshold at the time of writing is £325,000, or £650,000 for a couple. Above this the estate is taxed at a rate of 40 percent. You will have to find the appropriate form based on the size of your parent’s estate and submit the form to HM Revenue and Customs.

Submitting the forms to probate

Probate can be submitted directly online, or by post using form PA1P. There is a separate application process when there is no Will. The application requires all Executors to sign the form and submit the form together with the Inheritance Tax Summary Form, the original Will, and the original death certificate (photocopies are not acceptable). This is also an opportunity for any Executor to renounce their position (in my experience, it is more paperwork to renounce the position than it is to take on the role).

It took about 11-12 weeks for the probate application to be approved and a Grant of Probate issued to the Executors. For those three months, all assets are frozen.

Gathering and Distributing the Assets

Once the Executor has the Grant of Probate, this can be presented to the bank. It’s not quite so simple as presenting it to a cashier. Any frozen account is in the hands of the “bereavement department” so there is a little more bureaucracy to work through, but this should only take another day or two.

Depending on how many assets are being gathered, and how many beneficiaries are involved, you may be required to set up a new bank account for the estate. This allows all assets to be pooled together into a single account. Certainly if beneficiaries are receiving a percentage of the estate e.g. 12 percent of the estate to each of my grandchildren, then the assets should be gathered into a single estate in order to assess the full estate value and calculate the size of each inheritance.

Do I need a solicitor to submit forms to the probate office?

Absolutely not. It is as simple as applying for a passport, or any government benefit. The website at HM Courts & Tribunals Service is well laid out. All forms are available for download, and even if you make a mistake, you are given opportunities to fix errors (but this does add a significant amount of time to the process).

Transferring assets from the UK to another country

There are a variety of approaches to doing this, and I have personally tried at least three.

Sending a cheque

Sending a cheque would seem to have no restrictions on the amount. However, in practice, this isn’t the case. When my sister sent me a cheque to transfer money from a UK account, the cheque was blocked by the bank (Lloyds Bank). A week later my sister received a letter from the bank explaining that they had blocked it because she matched the profile of somebody falling for a “romance scam” (fifty plus year old woman, sending a cheque overseas). Keep in mind that phoning to speak to a high street bank is impossible. It tooks weeks and snail mail letter writing to figure out exactly what had happened.

A funds transfer

Incredibly, a funds transfer was actually a worse experience. Lloyds transferred the funds, but nothing appeared in my bank account in Canada. Again, it was impossible to speak to somebody at Lloyds, but each letter explained that the money had gone. But Royal Bank of Canada had not received it. This is a surprisingly common experience, when with a single mis-typed digit, the funds can go astray. It took four stressful months to track down the funds, and to this day, we don’t know where it had been for that time.

Wire transfers

Using Wise.com

Finally, we settled on Wise.com (formerly TransferWise.com) which was a minimal fee (less than a dollar), stress free process with full audit trails. My sister sent money from her bank to her Wise account. From her Wise account to my Wise account. And then I moved it from my Wise account to my bank account. I have absolutely no affiliation with Wise.com but it saved me a lot of money, and a lot of stress.

The choice of dying without a Will

If a person dies without a Will, they are leaving a headache for their family. The government website explains:

If the person did not leave a will, the most ‘entitled’ person can apply to become the administrator of the estate.

This is the closest living relative – normally the husband, wife or civil partner (including if you were separated) followed by any children 18 or over (including legally adopted children but not step-children).

Use the inheritance calculator to work out who the closest relative is if there’s no husband, wife, civil partner or children.

You cannot apply if you’re the partner of the person but were not their husband, wife or civil partner when they died.

There is no Executor named, and no distribution plan. The process is also much more complicated.

There is never a situation where it is preferable to die without a Will.

Get your parents to write their Will today

Everybody should have a Will. It takes 20 minutes and costs £39.95 at LegalWills.co.uk. If your parents don’t have a Will they are leaving you with a mess. I convinced my parents to prepare their Will and used the service at LegalWills.co.uk. If you have read the article above, the process of sorting out an estate can be a smooth one from start to finish. If your parents still have the capacity to prepare a Will, then sit with them as soon as you can and work through the service at LegalWills.co.uk.

The duties of an Executor of a Will

You can’t help but feel honoured when you’re named as the Executor of the estate of a family member or friend. It’s a sign that you’re trusted and respected. However, that sentiment might change when you realise what the task fully entails – a pile of work! In this article we will give a high level explanation of the duties of an Executor.

It can take at least a year (more likely 18 to 24 months if the estate is particularly complex) to administer the distribution of the estate including the time waited for probate, tax filing and general processes. This is during a period of emotional turmoil – both in grieving for the deceased and in navigating family tensions over how the estate is divided. On top of that, Executors are financially liable for their mistakes and are increasingly being held to account both by beneficiaries and by the courts.

Therefore, if you have recently been asked to be an Executor or if you have already agreed, you might want to brush up on your legal duties and Executor basics before formally accepting the role.

Duties of an Executor
Credit: 123rf

The Basics

When somebody dies, many people assume that their ‘next of kin’ will sort out their affairs, but this isn’t often the case. When someone has made a Will and appointed Executors in their Will, the Executors will be responsible for carrying out the deceased’s wishes. At LegalWills.co.uk we require all Wills to have a named Executor.

After an individual’s death, his or her assets will be gathered, business affairs settled, debts paid, the funeral arranged, and assets distributed as the deceased set out in their Will. These activities will be the responsibilities of the Executor. The work of the Executor involves corresponding with other parties, keeping meticulous records, filling out forms and being answerable to creditors, beneficiaries and the intentions of the deceased, as recorded in the Will. 

As an Executor it is vital that you read and fully understand the Will so that you will know who the beneficiaries are, what they are to receive and when, and who, if any, your co-Executors are. 
The Will often includes important directions to the Executor, such as which assets should be used to pay taxes and expenses. It will also list the Executor’s powers in some detail, outlining what they do and don’t have the authority to do.

Some Executors retain a solicitor who specialises in family law to assist them in performing their duties properly. Be mindful that if you accept the appointment to serve as an Executor, you will be held responsible for understanding and implementing the terms of the Will. Executors can be held personally liable for the decisions they make in the course of estate administration. Although Executors are acting in good faith, errors or disagreements can result in the Executor and the estate being sued by beneficiaries.

In the UK, probate fraud seems to be on the increase and is estimated to cost at least £150 million a year. Therefore, over the past ten years the courts have become harder on Executors than they used to be. Recent case law demonstrates that the courts are imposing costs on Executors now in situations where they never would before if they made a mistake.

Debts, Taxes and Expenses

It is the Executor’s duty to determine when they should pay bills unpaid at death, and expenses incurred in the administration of the estate, and then pay them or notify creditors of a temporary delay.

In the UK, there’s normally no Inheritance Tax to pay if either:

  • the value of your estate is below the £325,000 threshold
  • you leave everything to your spouse or civil partner, a charity or a community amateur sports club

If you give away your home to your children (including adopted, foster or stepchildren) or grandchildren, your threshold will increase to £425,000.

If your estate is worth more than the threshold, you will pay the standard Inheritance Tax rate of 40%. For Example if your estate is worth £500,000 and your tax-free threshold is £325,000. The Inheritance Tax charged will be 40% of £175,000 (£500,000 minus £325,000). 


Most expenses that an Executor incurs in the administration of the estate or trust are properly payable from the deceased’s assets. These include funeral expenses, appraisal fees, attorney’s and accountant’s fees, and insurance premiums.  Careful records should be kept, and receipts should always be obtained. If any expenses are payable to you or someone related to you, consult with a solicitor about any special precautions that should be taken.

A Word on Probate

One of the most common questions we receive is “does the Will have to be probated?”. To answer this, you must understand the purpose of probate.

Probate is the official legal process for validating the Will and accepting it as the official Last Will and Testament. It is the opportunity for multiple Wills to be presented, Wills to be contested, and Wills to be invalidated. At the end of the probate process, the named Executor is given a court issued document called a “Grant of Probate” that officially appoints them as the estate administrator. It gives the Executor the authority to gather all of the assets, and then distribute them to the beneficiaries.

All banks have a threshold at which they will ask for the Will to be probated. But not only banks. If you have premium bonds that the Executor needs to cash out, National Savings and Investment (NS&I) will require the Will to be probated. No financial institution can risk giving the money to the wrong person and they have no way of validating the Will themselves.

In general if an estate is worth more than about £5,000, probate will be required. But each bank has their own threshold.

Aviva – £50,000

AXA – £10,000

Barclays – £50,000

Britannia – £30,000

Cheltenham & Gloucester – £25,000

Co-op Bank – £30,000

Halifax – £50,000

HSBC – Decided on a case-by-case basis.

Lloyds TSB – £50,000

Nationwide – £50,000

Natwest – £25,000

NS&I – £5,000 to £15,000 depending on the will and the number of Executors

Post Office – £10,000

Santander – £50,000

All of these numbers are approximate guides, and it really depends on your relationship with the bank, and the bank’s perceived risk of giving the money to the wrong Executor.

If probate is needed, then you would start by going to the government website and completing form PA1P. (If there is no Will, the process is slightly different and you would need to complete form PA1A).

Carrying out the bequests

Wills often provide for specific legacies of cash (“I give my niece £20,000 if she survives me”) or property (“I give my grandfather clock to my granddaughter”) before the balance of the property, or residue, is distributed. The residue may be distributed outright or in further trusts, such as a trust for a surviving spouse or a trust for minor children. Be sure that all debts, taxes, and expenses are paid or provided for before distributing any property to beneficiaries because you may be held personally liable if insufficient assets do not remain to meet estate expenses.  

Most of the time, beneficiaries will pressure Executors to make an interim distribution because it can take months before the estate is finally wrapped up and all taxes paid off. However, beneficiaries should understand that they cannot force an Executor to make an interim distribution because it means the Executor is assuming risk for the payment of estate taxes. If you are unsure on how to proceed, it is always worth discussing your options with a solicitor who can explain the full interim distribution process to you and your legal responsibilities.

Where distributions are made to ongoing trusts or according to a formula described in the Will, it is best to consult a solicitor to be sure the funding is completed properly. Tax consequences of a distribution can sometimes be surprising, so careful planning is important.

Appointing an Executor at LegalWills.co.uk

Investing estate funds

Unless an Executor has financial experience, he or she should seek professional advice regarding the investment of assets in the estate. A skilled investment advisor can help the Executor decide how to invest, what assets to sell to produce cash for expenses, taxes or outright gifts of cash, and how to minimise income and capital gains taxes. Simply maintaining the investments that the decedent owned will not be a defence if an heir claims you did not invest wisely or violated the law governing estate investments. In all events, it is important to have a written investment policy statement stating what investment goals are being pursued.

Closing the estate

Estates may be closed when the Executor has paid all debts, expenses, taxes, and has distributed all assets on hand. Trusts terminate when an event described in the document, such as the death of a beneficiary, or when the beneficiary attains a specific age, occurs.  The Executor is given a reasonable period of time thereafter to make the actual distributions. As stated above, administering an estate can be a very time consuming process and delays for various reasons should be expected. If it’s all finished within a year, you should pat yourself on the back because it often takes longer, and in some cases it can take years.

Executors without prior experience typically underestimate the amount of time and work involved. Additionally, you may not realise that you need to keep clear records. These help the Executors keep track of what they are doing as beneficiaries, creditors or the court might also ask to see them.

It is good practice to require all beneficiaries to sign a document, prepared by a solicitor, in which they approve of your actions as Executor and acknowledge receipt of assets due to them. This document protects the Executor from later claims by a beneficiary. Finally, a final tax return must be filed on behalf of the estate and a reserve kept back for any due, but unpaid, taxes or estate expenses (if using the interim distribution process).

As we can see, agreeing to be an Executor is a big obligation and not one to be taken lightly. If you believe yourself unable to undertake the role, the best thing would be to refuse as you could be held legally accountable for any mistakes. And if you are currently writing your Will and wondering who to pick as an Executor, consider how large the task is that you’re handing off and who you can fully trust with your possessions and finances. It is sometimes helpful to have more than one Executor so that the task can be shared and as a contingency plan, but these people must also be willing and able to work together.

Don’t feel pressured into accepting the position if you really don’t think that you are able to do it. Today, there are many alternatives, as solicitors and even third party companies are able to take on the task.

Are you sure you know how a Will works?

There are a surprising number of misconceptions surrounding the workings of a Last Will and Testament. In this article we want to break down the most important points of a Will, so that you can truly understand how a Will works. Here we discuss ten key elements to a Will. Understand these, and you are on your way to understanding exactly how a Last Will and Testament works.

Understand how a Will works

1. A Will must be written

There are a few different approaches to writing a Will, but even though we are well into the 21st century, there is no getting around the requirement that a Will must be in writing. The law does not allow for a Will to be an audio recording, a video recording, stored on an iPhone, stored on your computer, or verbally explained to a friend.

There are a few odd exceptions to this general statement. For example, a “Nuncupative Will” is a verbal or oral Will that is permitted, but only for an active service person on active duty. This exception to the law was to allow a soldier on the battlefield, mortally wounded, to explain how they would like their assets to be divided. It is a very specific exception, but it is written into UK law.

In Australia, a Will was written on an iPhone and accepted by the courts. But it did have to go to the Supreme court of Queensland, and was accepted under very specific conditions. It is not an approach to take for the rest of us.

Some jurisdictions around the world are also accepting electronically signed Wills. British Columbia in Canada has brought in new legislation to accept a Will written, signed and stored entirely electronically. Four US States also currently accept this. The UK has no plans to allow electronic signatures on Wills.

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How much does it cost to change a Will?

There are different types of change that you may need to make to a Will, and different approaches. You may be surprised when you ask your solicitor or Will writer to make a change, and are quoted £300 or more. This article explains how you can make different types of changes to your Will, and explains the costs involved.


Clerical Errors

You need to simply change the address of somebody named in the Will

If you need to change the address of somebody named in the Will or even your own address, your Will does not need to be updated. You include the address of a beneficiary for two reasons: firstly you must uniquely identify the person, so that if you say

“I leave £1,000 to my friend Brian”

You may find a lot of Brians coming out of the woodwork. However if you say

“I leave £1,000 to my friend Brian Jones, of 123 Factory Street, Rainham, Essex”

There is only one person who could possibly claim to be this particular Brian.

Furthermore, your Executor then has to make sure that Brian receives his £1,000, so putting the full address in the Will may be useful. If you feel that your Executor may struggle to find the beneficiary, by all means include the address, but your Will is written as an instruction to your Executor. It works equally effectively to store your address book with your Will, or alternatively, your Executor could simply ask family members how to contact Brian Jones.

If you move houses, your Executor moves, or any of your beneficiaries change their address, there is no requirement to update your Will. Just make sure that next time you do update the Will, you update the appropriate addresses.

How to change a Will
Do not make changes like this

A person in the Will changes their name

This can happen for people named in a Will who take on a married name. Like the address, as long as it is clear who you are referring to, there is no legal requirement to change your Will. If you refer to your beneficiary as “my daughter Susan Brown” and she takes on the married name of “Susan Green” it is still obvious who this Susan is. Particularly as she was Susan Brown at the time the Will was written.

There may be slight additional administrative steps for probate if your Executor has changed their name, but nothing that cannot be easily resolved.

You have misspelled a person’s name

It can happen – you wrote “Paul MacKartney” and it should have been “McCartney”. Again, if this is a beneficiary, it is not critical, as long as the instruction is clear to your Executor and it is obvious who should be receiving the bequest. In this case, Mr. McCartney would not lose his inheritance just because the name was misspelled. The law requires the Executor to do their best to understand the intentions of the Will. A bequest is never forfeited because of a clerical error.

But this could create a slight issue for the Executor if they are probating the Will and the name is very different. This could in theory also be an issue if you have used a nickname instead of their correct name. Certainly, don’t refer to your Executor as “Spud Jones” when their real name is Neville. You want to give your Executor the minimum amount of friction possible to probate your Will, and this is just inviting a problem.

To summarize, Minor spelling mistakes for a beneficiary’s name are not an issue. However, a significant difference in the Executor’s name should be fixed.

How much does it cost to change a clerical error in your Will?

This type of error in a Will should not cost anything. You can actually manually write on the Will, and then initial that change. You should also have two witnesses initial the change. You are not materially changing a bequest, beneficiary or an appointment, and so you would not need to pay a solicitor to make this type of change.


Changing a person or a bequest in the Will

Creating a new beneficiary in the Will

This is where things start to become more significant. Suppose that you have written your Will and you are completely happy with it. But then you are touched by the work of your local hospital, church or another charity, and you would like to recognise their work in your Will. You would like to add a bequest of £5,000 to that particular charity.

In this case, it is a bad idea to write on the Will, because it is very difficult to establish when that change was made. Although this is a legally acceptable approach to updating the Will (if the change is initialled by yourself and two witnesses), it is wide open to a challenge. Particularly if there is a handwritten insertion of

“and £10,000 to my friend Brian Anderson”

Just imagine if Brian Anderson was the person who was entrusted with the storage and care of the Will. You are simply inviting problems.

Changing an appointee in the Will

There are a few different appointees in your Will: your Executor, your pet caregiver and your guardians for young children. We recommend that you do not handwrite the alteration on your Will when changing any of these.

If the name of your Executor has been manually changed on the Will, the probate courts could reject your Executor’s application for probate.

Manually changing your named pet caregiver may not be an issue unless you feel that this could cause some family conflict. Sometimes a significant amount of money can be involved in this appointment, so it is advisable to make a more formal change to your Will.

When you name a guardian for your young children in your Will, you are providing guidance to the courts. Clearly things can happen between the writing of the Will, and the Will coming into effect, and a change of circumstances may make your selection unqualified. Your chosen guardian also reserves the right to not take on the appointment.

But if there are no changes in circumstances, then the guardian named in your Will would likely be the legal guardian appointed by the courts. Again, we recommend not changing this person with a handwritten annotation on the Will.

How to change a person or a bequest in the Will

There are two correct approaches to changing a person or a bequest in your Will.

You can write a codicil

Codicils were very popular before we had computers and printers. In the days when a Will had to be handwritten, or typed, it was very inconvenient to have to retype the whole document to incorporate one small change. The workaround was to prepare a separate document that made reference to the main document and explained the change. It would say words to the effect of

“In the attached document ‘Last Will and Testament of me, John Smith’ for clause 3 ‘Executor’ replace the name Brian Green, with the name James White of 3, Railway Street, Plymouth, Devon”

The document would then be signed in the presence of two witnesses and then attached to the Will.

Of course, with the technology that we have today, it is just as convenient to prepare a new Will. The signing requirements for a codicil are the same as for a new Will. Codicils can be confusing, particularly, if there is a change to something described in an existing codicil – it can be unclear which parts of the Will are being updated.

We have written in more detail about the problems of codicils in another article.

You can prepare a new Will

In modern times, codicils are rarely the best option. We always recommend preparing a new Will if you are making material changes to your Will that include a change to a beneficiary, bequest or appointee in the Will.

If you use a Will writing service like the one at LegalWills.co.uk, this is very straightforward. You would simply login to your account, click through to the page where you name the Executor, make the change and then print the new version of your Will. The new document must then be signed in the presence of two witnesses.

Naming an Executor at LegalWills.co.uk

If you have an active account, there is absolutely no charge for doing this, and the process takes about 5 minutes. You can updated your Will from your armchair at home. Which brings us to the main topic of this article.


How much does it cost to change a Will?

There are generally three approaches to writing your Will, which means that there are also three approaches to changing your Will.

If you have handwritten your Will

Legally, you can write your Will on a piece of paper. If it is entirely handwritten, it is called a holographic Will, and this is legal in the UK. However, it is generally a bad idea. Aretha Franklin the Queen of Soul chose this method. She died in 2018 and her assets are all still tied up in legal disputes that are costing millions of pounds.

Aretha Franklin’s Will

The cost to make changes to this type of Will, is, errr, nothing. However, the cost to your family and loved ones is incalculable. There will most likely be confusion, disputes, and a lot of money spent on solicitor’s fees.

If you have written your Will with a Solicitor

This is one of the most confusing aspects of making a change to an existing Will. If you return to your solicitor requesting a change, your solicitor will almost always recommend that you prepare a new Will. In fact, they will usually refuse to work with a single clause without reviewing the complete document. As a result, it can seem to be an exorbitant fee. Usually to make a change to a bequest, or beneficiary within a Will, a solicitor will charge about £300 to £500 – the cost of preparing the initial Will.

In fact, many people who come to LegalWills.co.uk do so after experiencing this very thing. They wrote their Will with a solicitor and then realised that it would cost them several hundreds of pounds every time they needed to make a change. It’s also worth keeping in mind that your Will may need to be changed many times throughout your life – whenever anybody named in the Will has a change of circumstances.

For example, if your alternate Executor has been taken ill. If you have written your Will with a solicitor you probably wouldn’t make the effort to set up an appointment to make that minor change to the document. But that leaves your Will less than complete as you do not have a backup Executor. You would have to weigh up the cost and inconvenience of making that change against the risk of having no backup in place.

If you have written your Will with an online Will writing service

This is one of the key advantages to using an online Will writing service like the one at LegalWills.co.uk. We provide a complete review of different online Will writing services elsewhere on this website.

Most online Will writing services allow you to make changes to your Will any time you have an active account. You simply login to your account, navigate to the part of the Will that needs to be updated and change the information. You then download and print a new document to be signed in the presence of witnesses.

The cost for updating your Will with an online Will writing service is usually nothing at all.

What do I do with my existing Will?

If you have previously written your Will with a solicitor, and have been quoted several hundreds of pounds to make an update, you may be considering using an online Will service like ours at LegalWills.co.uk. But it may be awkward to have the discussion with your solicitor asking for them to dispose of your existing Will because you have chosen to use an online Will writing service.

The good news is that you don’t need to have this discussion.

If you prepare a new Will using the service at LegalWills.co.uk it automatically revokes (cancels) any previous Will or codicil. This means that once it is signed by you, dated and the witnesses sign, any previous Will is automatically nullified. Your old Will does nothing at this point.

Ideally, you shouldn’t have a number of different versions of your Will in circulation (this is one of the problems with Aretha Franklin’s affairs, she had a number of Wills tucked away all over her house). But if it isn’t practical to destroy old versions of your Will, it doesn’t matter too much. Only your most recently signed document is your Last Will and Testament. Your previous Wills do nothing.

Update your Will today

If you have an existing Will and you are looking for a fast, affordable way to make a change to this Will, we recommend that you prepare a Will with LegalWills.co.uk. The cost is £39.95 and it takes about 20 minutes.