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Coronavirus: Steps to consider when writing your will

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Posted by Tracy Ashby on 26 March 2020

Tracy Ashby - Wills and Tax Lawyer
Tracy Ashby Head of Private Client - Senior Associate

The knock-on effect of the spread of coronavirus on all our lives cannot be underestimated and it is not surprising that many of us are worried about our personal safety and that of our families.

Most of us know that writing a Will is important so we can specify what should happen to our assets when we die. We all seem to be considering our Wills in light of the current worrying circumstances.

To make the process as straightforward as we can for you, we have created a checklist below, to help you make informed choices as to what you would like your Will to contain.

Step 1: Value your estate

In short, your estate is what you own when you die, minus any debts that need to be settled and any inheritance tax bill. Most Wills refer to this as the residue of your estate.

Your estate may include all or some of the following:

  • Property: your home, holiday home, investment property, a share in another property;
  • Savings: in bank accounts and building society accounts and premium bonds;
  • Personal belongings: jewellery, furniture, heirlooms, cars and motorbikes;
  • Insurance: endowment policies, life assurance
  • Pensions
  • Investments: stocks and shares, investment trusts
  • Digital assets: photographs, online accounts, cryptocurrencies.

Your debts may include:

  • Loans
  • Mortgage/s
  • Credit card balance/s
  • Bank overdraft

Step 2: Think about tax

Inheritance Tax (IHT) will not be payable on any assets that your spouse inherits. Gifts and donations to charities are usually exempt from IHT. The amount of IHT payable on your estate will be dependent upon who you decide to leave your estate to. We can guide you through the relevant factors.

Step 3: Decide how to divide your estate

You will need to consider who you want to benefit from your estate and when they do. Any specific gifts you wish to leave to particular people (specific legacies) or charities need to be made clear. Likewise, you will need to think about what will happen to the residue of your estate.

Your home is likely to be your largest asset and how you own it will affect whether it can be left in your Will. If you own your home outright, you will be able to decide who you leave it to. Different rules apply depending on whether your home is held in a joint tenancy or tenancy in common. We can guide you through how your ownership affects what you can leave in your Will.

Step 4: Other considerations and further instructions

You may wish to name a legal guardian who will be responsible for your children (whilst they are under 18 years of age) should you and their other parent die. You may also want to consider if any financial arrangements can be made to assist your children for their future.

For many people pets are a key part of their family too, and you can name a specific person to take care of your pets.

Many people also leave instructions concerning their funeral arrangements in their Will, although these are not legally binding, unlike the rest of the Will. For example, you may request burial or cremation. Leaving these instructions may help to spare your loved ones from making decisions at a difficult time.

You might also consider leaving a letter of wishes to accompany your Will, explaining the reasons for your decisions especially if you deliberately wish to exclude someone from being a beneficiary.

Step 5: Choose your executors

Your executors are those people who carry out the wishes in your Will. You need to think carefully about who you wish to appoint because the role holds a lot of responsibility and sometimes involves a lot of work. You may have more than one executor, but if you’re struggling to find someone suitable you could decide to appoint a professional executor.

Step 6: Write your will

If you decide it’s time to write your Will and have thought about what you would like to happen to your estate after you die, it would be sensible to collate the following information:

  • Your personal details and details of your assets (e.g. account details and property addresses)
  • Your proposed executors;
  • Your beneficiary’s details: full names, address/es and dates of birth
  • If applicable, details of your children and their legal Guardians, carers of pets and/or funeral arrangements.

About the author

Tracy Ashby

Head of Private Client - Senior Associate

Since qualification as a solicitor in 2005, Tracy has gained a vast amount of knowledge and experience in all private client related issues. Advising on care fee funding and protecting vulnerable clients is her particular area of expertise.

Tracy Ashby

Since qualification as a solicitor in 2005, Tracy has gained a vast amount of knowledge and experience in all private client related issues. Advising on care fee funding and protecting vulnerable clients is her particular area of expertise.

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