At such unprecedented times, the need to make or update a will is especially important. The temptation to draft a will in haste, particularly by electronic means, is understandable.
Here are a few points which should help to avoid any dispute later down the line:
It is important that your will is made correctly
To be valid, a will must be signed by the person who is making it and it must be a true reflection of their wishes. The signing of the will must be witnessed by at least two people, who are not beneficiaries of the will. The witnesses must sign the will in the presence of the person making it. If it is not executed correctly, the will could be deemed invalid. This is particularly important when using a homemade will kit or an online will writing service which may have been provided by an unregulated or unqualified lawyer.
Give some thought to who the executors and beneficiaries of your will are going to be
If a spouse, child (particularly those under 18 years old), cohabitee or anyone financially dependent on you is not going to inherit for any reason, those individuals could bring a claim against the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Families and Dependants) Act 1975. To bring a claim, they would need to argue that the estate does not make ‘reasonable financial provision’ for them. Ideally, to reinforce any such exclusions, it is wise to attach to the will a letter outlining the reasons for why you wish for the beneficiaries chosen to inherit and why others are excluded. The letter itself would not be legally binding, however, it may be helpful in case of any later disputes. Taking legal advice from a solicitor at the time of making a will is highly recommended to avoid problems later.
Ensure that your will clearly covers all assets in your estate
In the case of larger or more complex estates, and particularly where the estate includes overseas assets, there is potential for discrepancy if the will does not deal with those assets specifically. Otherwise, such assets could fall under the intestacy rules and not pass in accordance with the will. Furthermore, appropriate advice should be sought in case of tax implications on higher-value assets and estates over the Inheritance Tax nil-rate band (currently £325,000).
Make sure your will can be located when required
Whether your will is made by a solicitor or you decide to make a will at home, don’t forget to ensure your will is stored safely and let your family or executors know where it can be found.