03 Sep Wills: Our Guide
A Will does not have to be a complicated document. It can be as simple as you like, and the best advice we can give you is that it is an opportunity for you to own your personal legacy, and decide how you are remembered to your family, friends and charity. Arranging a professionally formulated, bespoke and personally crafted Will from a law firm is one of the best ways to look after your family when you aren’t here anymore.
An essential legal document
Even if you do not have any assets, leaving a simple Will behind makes the lives of your friends and family so much easier. Dying intestate means stress, arguments, uncertainty and simple frustration for your relatives in dealing with the simplest matters, such as closing down bank accounts and winding up any remaining assets. They might even have to go to Court and deal with potentially expensive and lengthy probate issues.
Wills.im will keep the details of your Will absolutely confidential. You do not need to share the details of it with anyone, not even your partner, if you do not want to.
Remember: if you don’t have a Will, you aren’t in control. It’s the only way to make sure what you leave behind gets looked after. Think in particular about the following:
- Children from a prior marriage or relationship
- Property, assets, shares or savings in your name or held jointly with another
- Being unmarried, or engaged but not yet married
What is a Will?
A will is a document that complies with legal formalities and constitutes a record of what you’d like to do with the assets you leave behind, known as your “estate”.
It needs to be properly drafted in order to qualify, and you should consult a qualified lawyer – a Solicitor or advocate who has trained for years, understands the law involved and is a professional who can ensure that the legal issues both in the way it is worded and the way you sign it. Storage is also very important, but the most important issue is that your Will is a lawful legal record in order for it to work properly.
Who should draft my Will?
Nowadays, there are plenty of people who advertise will-writing services. Wills.im advises that you always consult a qualified legal professional, such as a Solicitor or Advocate. This is because they will have had plenty of training, years of education, and a rigorous process in order to qualify as a lawyer. They will be regulated by a statutory body such as the Solicitors
Regulation Authority, or the Law Society. They will comply with a strict code of ethics set down by the law, such as confidentiality and avoiding client conflict. They will also, by law, carry sufficient professional indemnity insurance in case anything goes wrong, even if the law firm stops operating or the lawyer retires.
Buying a Will from a shop or on the internet without ensuring a lawyer has reviewed it means that you run the very real risk of not only failing to protect your assets, but making things worse for you and your relatives.
What can I do in my Will?
A Will lets you:
- Override existing Wills
- Say who gets what, when you pass away
- Give money to charity
- Contemplate a future marriage
- Provide for anyone who is financially dependent on you
- Say how you’d like to be buried, or cremated
- Deal with your property, businesses, shares, and ensure any debts you have are settled such as mortgages or loans
The main sections of your Will should cover:
- What property you have, and if you own it jointly
- Any personal assets you have
- Gifts of cash you want to make
- How you’d like to be buried or cremated
- How many children you have and how they should be provided for
- Anything else you want to be dealt with
Who can I mention in my Will?
Basically: anyone. You can specify that your assets are left to almost anyone, or anything. In particular, consider the following:
- Your partner
- Your children, especially if they are under 18
- Any other financial dependents
- Children from a previous relationship
Are there issues of “hidden laws” or someone having a claim who isn’t in my Will?
Yes. This is known as “forced heirship”. Certain categories of people under the law need to be provided for in your Will. If you don’t include them or don’t leave them enough, then under the law on the Isle of Man they have a claim on your estate.
Who might have a claim?
- Your wife, husband or civil partner
- Your ex-wife, husband or civil partner, if they haven’t remarried, or they didn’t get enough in a divorce settlement
- Someone you co-habit with as if they are married to you (or in a civil partnership) for at least two years from the date you pass away
- Your children under the age of 18, or over that age if you maintain them financially including those born outside marriage or in a previous relationship
- Anyone else who depends on you for support such as step-children or foster children
What might their claim be for?
More money or rights, if your Will – or what they get if you don’t leave a Will – doesn’t give them “reasonable financial provision”.
This obviously leaves a lot to interpretation. The Court looks at:
- How much money they have, and what they need to spend it on
- How much other members of the family have, and what they need it for
- Any pre-existing agreements, onligations or specific responsibilities you had towards them when you were alive
- How much you have in total
- Any disability the applicant might have
- Anything else that might be relevant including the applicant’s (or someone else’s) conduct.
Partners (ex, co-habiting, or current)
A good rule of thumb is what a divorce settlement might be, if it is an ex-partner involved. The “reasonable financial provision” amount needs to be “reasonable in all the circumstances of the case for a [husband or wife] [civil partner] to receive, whether or not that provision is required for his or her maintenance”.
The Court also looks at:
- The age of the applicant
- The duration of the marriage or civil partnership, or relationship
- The contribution they made to the welfare of your family, including contributions of homecare or childcare.
The law doesn’t say that your will has to be the same as theirs – this is often referred to as a “Mirror Will”, but it does need to be fair. If you want to make a will that’s different to your partners, remember that Unity Legal always offers confidential discussions around how to make that possible.
Children or other dependents
Children are likely to have a strong claim because of their age and the nature of the relationship – the Court also looks at:
- Whether you actively took on responsibility for them, and if so why, how much and how long for
- If they were your own child or not
- Whether anyone else has liability to look after them as well
Remember, however, that the Court always has full discretion and a lot of ways to decide how to deal with your estate (whether by lump sum, interim financial order, lifetime maintenance provision or otherwise) and that disappointment alone with what has been left to someone, is not enough.
Reviewing your Will and making changes
You can change your will at any time, as long as you still have legal capacity to do so. If you want to change it, just call us and we’ll make the amendments you need.
You’ll need to make a new one altogether so that it takes the place of your old one otherwise the documents will conflict with one another and could undo all your hard work. It’s important to make sure that all old copies are destroyed and you have updated your Executors.
It’s a good idea to review your Will roughly every 5-10 years but some circumstances might crop up earlier than that such as:
- Significant change in assets – such as buying a new house, or selling one
- Change of wishes
- Change of marital or family status
- Buying property abroad
- Changing relationships with family
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07624 35 60 45 and ask for Eric for a free, no obligation chat about your Will.