Technically, the Will writing service at LegalWills.co.uk is not a Will template, but rather, 160 templates, offering an infinite number of different Wills. We guide you through the process of preparing your Will by stepping you through ten sections. You answer questions as you go, which directs you through to the next section. Just like a choose you own adventure novel, or Bandersnatch on Netflix.
In this article we will provide an overview of the process, so that you can understand ahead of time, the types of questions that you will be asked, and a sense of the information that goes into a well drafted Last Will and Testament.
What is a Will Template?
Everybody needs a Will, but most UK adults don’t have one. The main reason is that the process has traditionally been an expensive and inconvenient one. It’s not surprising that many people get confused by the cost of a Will, and as a result look for ways to prepare their own Will.
One obvious approach is to look at existing blank form Will template and try to base the writing of a new Will on that existing template. It’s not really an advisable approach because there are likely to be differences. You may want to include a charitable bequest, a trust for a young child, name a guardian, look after a pet. There are many things that go into a Will, so finding a template that suits your particular needs is going to be difficult.
If the template is not a good match, you will find yourself trying to craft legal clauses, thinking “how different can it be to leave money to a charity, or leave money to look after a pet?”. And soon you will have a Last Will and Testament that doesn’t really work.
The Online Will Service
It is important to be clear that although Online Will services allow you to prepare your Will online, you are not creating a special type of “online Will”. Any legal Will must be printed onto a piece of paper and signed in the presence of two witnesses, who must then sign. Any scanned, photocopied, faxed or otherwise digitized version of your document is not going to be readily accepted as your legal Will.
Online Will services allow you to go to a website, and they guide you through the process of preparing a Will. There are many different services available, including ours at LegalWills.co.uk. We have provided a full overview of the different online Will service providers so that you can compare the options.
The Will Template at LegalWills.co.uk
There are ten sections to our service. This article will take you through each section and explain what information is needed, and also provide some tips for completing each section.
Why do I need to include this information?
For your Will to be a legally enforceable document it must be clearly identifiable as your Will. Quite simply, on this page you are providing the information for the opening statement of the Will, which looks something like: “I, John Smith, of 123 Drewry Lane, Bolton, Lancashire, England, HEREBY REVOKE all former wills and testamentary dispositions made by me AND DECLARE this to be my last will.”
How will this information be used?
This information is only used in the construction of the opening statement of the Will. Our commitment to customer privacy and confidentiality is outlined in our strict Privacy Statement.
Why is this information relevant?
This is really the start of the choose-your-own adventure. Depending on the answer to this question you will be sent down a variety of different paths through the Will writing service.
By describing your marital status, the service is able to personalise the structure of your Will and give you appropriate advice regarding the distribution of your estate. For example, in England and Wales, certain people including a surviving spouse, former spouse and children can apply to the courts for reasonable provision to be made for them. So if you decide to disinherit any of these people, there is no guarantee that they will not benefit from your estate.
If you indicate that you are married, you will be prompted to make your spouse the main beneficiary of your estate (you don’t have to do this, but this will be your first option). If you have young children you will have the option to name a guardian for that child and set up a trust for handling their share of the estate.
Of course, not all of your beneficiaries will be family members, and so you can also list other beneficiaries on subsequent pages within this section.
Guardians for young children
What is a guardian?
A guardian will take legal responsibility for minors in the event of the death of the parents. When you appoint a guardian in your Will, you are expressing your preference for who you would like to raise your children. This may be an emotional decision, but it is very important to cover the eventuality even if there are currently two parents. It is not uncommon for both parents to be lost due to a common disaster. If you are the sole custodial parent, it is absolutely vital that you clearly state who you would like to take responsibility for your children should you die.
The role of guardian differs from the role of trustee in that whilst the trustee has the financial responsibility of managing funds held in trust, the guardian is responsible for the welfare and upbringing of the child. Liaison between the trustee and the guardian is required to plan for the child’s financial future.
What will happen if I do not name anybody?
It is a good idea to name a guardian for your children. If you do not, the courts will decide who is the most capable and appropriate person to raise your children, and this may trigger a traumatic legal battle between interested parties. More importantly, the final choice of the courts may not be the person that you would have chosen yourself. For example, you may think that your parents (the child’s grandparents) will automatically get custody. But often the courts determine that aged grandparents are not the most suitable guardians of small children. There are many unfortunate situations that can arise. At one extreme you may leave a bitter, expensive, custody battle between a number of people claiming guardianship; at the other extreme you may have nobody prepared to take your children, in which case they may be adopted or offered to foster parents.
Executor of your Will
What is an “executor”? What do they actually have to do?
Your “executor” is your personal representative, who will be responsible for distributing your estate (property and assets) according to the wishes outlined in your Will. There are a number of important responsibilities of an executor, which is why the selection is so important, and why it is also recommended that you seek approval from the executor before they are expected to perform these duties.
- First of all, your executor should have access to your Will, so it is a good idea to also make this person a “Keyholder®” for your MyWill™ service, or a recipient of a message from the MyMessages™ service.
- The executor will have to review your Will, make sure that nobody else has access to any of your property, and notify your next of kin and beneficiaries.
- “Grant of Probate” of the Will has to be obtained from the High Court and it is the executor’s duty to apply. In order to administer the estate, your executor must be able to prove to the world that he or she has the legal authority to do so. The best proof is the “Grant of Probate”, a document from the High Court certifying that your Will is valid. Until the Grant of Probate has been obtained, the executor is known as your Personal Representative and his authority over your assets is only confirmed once he has obtained the Grant of Probate. However, as Personal Representative, he can take all necessary steps to secure your assets and to obtain the information required to apply for the Grant of Probate. When the Will is proved, by the issue of a grant of probate, it confirms and makes official the powers that the executor has had since your death.
- In the absence of any family member or if there is a dispute between your family, then the executor will, by default, be expected to make your funeral arrangements and pay for funeral expenses out of your estate. It is a good idea to name either a family member (or, failing that, the executor) within the MyFuneral™ service as the person with responsibility for ensuring that your wishes are respected.
- The executor will have to make an inventory of the property in your estate and value the property for HM Revenue and Customs.
- The executor has the responsibility of protecting the property of your estate. They must ensure that all valuables are kept safe and that the property is fully insured.
- Until the estate is distributed, the executor has to keep the money and investments in your estate properly invested. They will have to choose low-risk investments, as your beneficiaries could sue your executor for making bad investments and reducing the value of the estate before it is given to them.
- Once the estate has paid all the debts and taxes, the executor is able to distribute the property to the beneficiaries.
- The executor is personally responsible for distributing the property that remains in the estate in accordance with the terms of the Will. They may have to pay legacies of money to nominated persons, transfer items of property to a beneficiary, or hold the money in trust according to the instructions laid out in the will.
- Finally, the executor will have to provide detailed accounts to the beneficiaries including a detailed list of everything that was received and paid out by the estate.
Note that if your executor is also a “Keyholder®” for your MyWill™ service, then they will have access to specific step-by-step instructions which are made available to them at this web site when they login to retrieve your Will.
The Will template at LegalWills.co.uk is unique amongst online Will writing services. It is the only one that specifically prompts for charitable bequests.
What are charitable bequests, and how do they benefit me?
Leaving bequests to charities in your Will is called “Planned Giving“. These are generally gifts of assets or a bequest in your Will, not current income. It is through Planned Giving that charities can fill their philanthropic needs.
Depending on the type of asset donated, Planned Giving can be a way to make a much more substantial gift than might ever be possible otherwise.
Although 75% of people are charitable during their lifetime, only about 5% of people leave a charitable bequest in their Will. This is generally because it doesn’t occur to people at the time of writing their Will to think of charities.
It is actually a very low impact way of making a huge difference. Leaving one percent of your estate to a charity hardly makes a difference to your beneficiaries, but it can be a significant donation to a charity.
We would like to encourage more people to think of charities when stepping through our service. Of course, you can still choose not to make a charitable bequest if it does not fit with your plans.
Care of a Pet
Again the Will template at LegalWills.co.uk is unique. We are the only online service that adequately provides options for pet trusts.
On this page you would include the name of your pet and the type of pet (e.g. dog, cat, beagle, Siamese cat, parrot, etc.). You then must enter the typical life expectancy of this type of pet, as this will determine the amount of money that will be given to the carer. A pet that has 15 years left to live will place a greater financial burden on the carer than a pet that is likely to live for another year or two. Certain species of dogs, for example, have a life expectancy of about 15 years, cats can live to about 20 years. You should err on the side of a longer life expectancy. Then you should name your chosen carer for the pet, and determine the amount per year that you wish to fund the care. The actual amount given to the carer will be the calculated based on the remaining lifespan of the animal, multiplied by the annual maintenance. Remember that costs are typically higher for aging pets compared to costs when they are younger. So make sure that you have provided enough to cover medical expenses as they age.
Distribution of your estate
Once again, LegalWills.co.uk is unique in that we are the only Will writing service that includes options for “blended families”. Allowing you to create a lifetime interest in property for a spouse who is not the biological parent of your children.
This page is your first step in deciding how you wish to distribute your property. If you have dependents, you must first consider how much of your estate will go to the people who are dependent on you. On this page you can start to create a simple Will by leaving everything to your immediate next of kin. Alternatively, you may want to leave everything to your dependents, but you may have specific “bequests” (specific items/property/assets that you would like to leave to specific people or organisations). On the other hand, you may have specific items that you wish to leave to specific people, and then wish to distribute the remainder in a particular way (for example, leaving the remainder to a different person or organisation). Finally, you may simply wish to describe how your estate should be distributed without using the structure provided by the our Will template. Whatever you decide, you will be able to describe the details of how your property will be distributed on the following pages of the wizard.
You will then of course have to describe a backup plan in case your first choice main beneficiary cannot receive the estate for whatever reason. For example, you were both involved in a common accident.
You can then divide everything between your children. Of course, if you do not have children, our Will template will take you down a completely different path and you will never see this page.
There are two final sections to our Will template. You can forgive any debts that are owed to you if you wish. You also have the option to attach a letter of instructions to your Will, which is referred to by the Will.
Writing your Will with our Will template
This article provides you with a summary overview of our Will template with the sections that you will be going through. But there are many paths through our service. Some of these pages you may never see.
The best way to experience the Will writing service is to try it out. You can go directly to the Will template. And click on Try it Right Now.
And of course, if you have any questions or need help, you can contact us by phone, email or live chat.
He has over 19 years of experience helping people to write their Will and other estate planning documents. He has been interviewed by many of the major news media outlets and has contributed to articles in most leading publications. He has also contributed to a number of financial planning books.
Throughout his career, Tim has written extensively on the subject of Will writing and estate planning.
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