A will is a legally binding document in which you specify what is to happen to your estate following your death.
When making your will, you decide who to appoint as executors and trustees. These are people who will be responsible for administering your estate and any trusts arising under the terms of your will. Often the same people are appointed for both roles but there may be circumstances when it would be beneficial to name different people for the two roles. In all cases, careful consideration should be given as to who you will appoint as the role of executors and trustees can be time consuming and they must always act in the best interests of your beneficiaries whilst ensuring they follow the law and the provisions contained in your will. If you do not wish to appoint family or friends you may wish to consider the appointment of professional executors and trustees.
If you have young children, you may wish to name guardians to look after them whilst they are under age.
You can include in your will some pecuniary (cash) or specific gifts of items which you actually own (such as jewellery) to family, friends or charities.
Depending on your circumstances it may be appropriate to consider the creation of trusts. There are various types of trust, each used for a different purpose and with different tax consequences, so full advice should always be obtained. Trusts can be used to protect assets for the benefit of disabled beneficiaries or to protect the assets from the actions of irresponsible beneficiaries and are also widely used when there is a desire to provide for successive beneficiaries to benefit such as wishing to provide for a surviving spouse during their lifetime whilst ensuring assets ultimately pass to children on their subsequent death.
When considering the type of gifts you wish to make, it is also important to consider what the likely tax consequences of such gifts will be.
If you do not make a will, then your estate will be distributed in accordance with the rules of intestacy. These rules lay down which relatives can inherited in the event of your death and what their entitlement will be. There is not provision for cohabitees to receive any benefit at all under these rules and spouses do not necessarily inherit the whole of the estate.
Real financial hardship could arise for your loved ones if you fail to make proper provision for them which could result in costly litigation following your death.
When advising clients in relation to their wills we are able to provide full inheritance tax advice to ensure the best of use of available allowances are made to pass your estate to your loved ones in the most tax efficient manner; but we are also able to provide full advice on the best type of gifts to make depending on the level of provision you wish to make for each beneficiary and to help you mitigate the risk of costly litigation to your estate following your death from relatives who believe you failed to make adequate provision for.