How to Write a Will with Clear Instructions
The death of a loved one is a difficult time that can be made harder by family disputes over the distribution of personal assets. If disputes over the legal division of estates progress, legal battles can occur resulting in extra expenses and tensions between family members. Disputes can especially happen over possessions which might not have monetary value but hold a lot of sentimental value. Therefore, to avoid tensions, assure your assets are divided how you desire and to avoid your family paying further expenses, it is important to write a will with clear instructions.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Testator in a Will?
A testator is an individual who has written the will.
What is an Executor in a Will?
An executor is an individual who is dealing with the estate of the person who has died. An alternative name is an administrator. An executor is named in the will as someone who is responsible for dealing with the estate. Additionally, an executioner may have to apply for a special legal authority before they can deal with the estate. This is called probate.
How Testators Should Prepare Their Will?
If the testator wishes to leave a certain gift to someone after they have died, the easiest solution is to leave a specific gift in the will. The clause must provide a clear and detailed definition of the items being gifted in addition to clear details about the recipient. When writing a will, it is important to be as clear as possible to avoid any complications or disputes over items. Therefore, words such as “contents, furniture, valuables” should be avoided. A wills and probate solicitor can help assure your will is written clearly.
Consider Whether the Gift is Free of Inheritance Tax
The testator will need to consider whether the gifted item will be made free of inheritance tax. If so, any inheritance tax payable for the item will be paid by the remainder of the testator’s estate.
What if the Gift No Longer Exists?
In some cases, the gift may have been lost or disposed of and replaced with another item. This may not have much impact if the gift has already been given before the testator has passed away but can be an issue if the item has been sold and replaced by a similar item. In this situation, the gift will fail, unless the will clause provides for the recipient to receive the replacement item.
Keeping the Will Private
The will becomes a public document once probate has been granted. Therefore, any details of any specific gifts will be freely available following probate. There is no way to keep the gifted items a secret once the document has been granted probate. However, including it in the gift in the will is the only way to ensure it is legally enforceable.
Leaving Personal Chattels to the Executors
An alternative option is to leave personal chattels for the executors to distribute. To do so, you will need to leave clear instructions contained in a separate letter of wishes.
This is usually achieved by providing in the testator’s will that they leave their personal assets to their executors to distribute to a defined class of beneficiaries within a defined time (for example, six months from the date of death). If you choose to leave the division of chattels to the executors, it’s important to understand the legal definition of “personal chattels” so you can ensure what’s covered by this clause.
What are Personal Chattels?
The current definition of chattels as detailed in section 3 of the Inheritance and Trustees Powers Act 2014 applies to all wills and codicils executed after 1 October 2014.
For an item to be classed as a chattel it must:
- Be tangible movable property (for example, something that can be touched like a piece of artwork or a car.
Be an item that can move or be moved.
- Not be something that was owned solely as an investment or for business purposes.
The definition includes electronic equipment including computers, laptops, and phones for personal rather than business use. A personal chattel does not include digital assets.
What Are the Advantages of Personal Chattels?
- Confidentiality of the contents of the letter after probate has been granted (unlike the contents of a will).
- Freedom to update the letter of wishes as often as desired without the need to update the will.
It should be noted, however, that it is critical for the testator to choose an executor who will carry out the wishes in the letter as it is not legally enforceable. Additionally, it is important to make your wishes clear in the letter to avoid confusion for the executor.
How Our Will Writing Solicitors Can Help You Write a Will with Clear Instructions
Because the will is a legal document, any small error in the wording can leave the will up to interpretation. This can cause preventable issues and disputes. In the worst-case scenario, an error in the will can make it invalid. Our wills and probate solicitors will assure you leave your will with clear instructions. In addition, we will provide any legal advice you may need to write your will.
Our solicitors can help you with:
- Setting up a Trust
- Probate Solicitors
- Will Writing Solicitors
- UK Inheritance Tax
- Deed of Variation
- Lasting Power of Attorney
If you have any questions about our will writing services or for assistance setting up your will or trust, get in contact below.
All advice is correct at time of publication.