When you write your Will, you need to name one or more Executors who will carry out the administration of your estate when the time comes. We look at what this entails and what you need to take into account when choosing someone to take on the role.
The Executor to an estate has the job of bringing the deceased’s affairs to a close and distributing funds to the named beneficiaries. The task can be daunting and take many months, even years, so before appointing someone you both need to understand exactly what it entails.
The role of an Executor
There is usually a substantial amount of work involved in winding up an estate. Initially the funeral needs to be arranged and the death registered.
Asset holders need to be notified and the estate valued. Inheritance Tax should be calculated and paid, as well as any Income Tax that may be due.
Assets need to be valued, collected in and sold, to include any property, which may need to be cleared and insured in the meantime.
Estate accounts must be prepared and finally the estate is distributed to those named in the Will.
Choosing the right Executor
The Executor can be held personally liable for any mistakes made during this process, so it is important to ensure that the person you have chosen is willing to take on the role and capable of carrying it out proficiently.
Your executor should be aged 18 or over and have the mental capacity to act on your behalf.
More than one Executor
It is usually recommended that at least two Executors are appointed in a Will so that if one of them is unable or unwilling to act when the time comes, you still have someone else who can take on the role.
Two Executors can act jointly, or one can step back when the time comes and allow the other to do the work alone. You can also name a substitute Executor who would only act if one of those named could not.
If you don’t have anyone who can act for you
If you don’t have anyone willing or able to take on the task, you can appoint a professional Executor, such as a probate solicitor, to deal with the administration of your Will.
They will be familiar with the process, able to correctly calculate tax due and draft accurate accounts. A charge is made for the service, but it does mean that your loved ones will not have to struggle with complicated and sometimes frustrating paperwork following your death.
If you would like to talk to one of our Wills and Probate specialists, ring us on on 01243 216900 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you own your home jointly with someone else, you should think about how you want to leave it when you write your Will.
There are two different ways in which you can jointly own a property. Only one type of ownership allows you to leave your share of your home to someone in your Will.
Owning your home as a joint tenant
If you and your spouse or partner own your property as joint tenants, then on the death of either of you, the property automatically passes to the survivor. Even if you leave all of your estate to someone else in your Will, a property owned by you as a joint tenant will become solely owned by the other joint tenant.
Owning your home as a tenant in common
If you hold your property with someone else as tenants in common, then your share of that property passes in accordance with your Will. If you don’t have a Will, then it will be subject to the rules of intestacy, which specify which of your relatives will inherit your estate.
This means that if a tenant in common dies, the surviving owner may be forced to leave the home if the person who inherits the other share wishes to sell.
Writing your Will as a property owner
It is always preferable to write a Will, whether or not you own a property, to ensure that your estate passes to those whom you would wish to benefit from it. If you do own a property jointly with someone else, think about what you want to happen after your death.
If you would like to leave your share to someone else, but you currently hold the home as joint tenants, it is possible to sever the tenancy so that ownership becomes as tenants in common. When you own a property in this way, it is also possible to hold unequal shares, for example one-quarter owned by one person and three-quarters by another. This needs to be put in writing at the time the tenancy is created. You can also put details of how you will agree any sale of the property into this document.
Creating a life interest trust
If you want your spouse or partner to live in the home after your death, but don’t want to give them your share of the property outright, your Will can give them a life interest in the home. This would give them the right to live in the property for as long as they want, but ultimately the house would pass to your choice of beneficiary.
This prevents the ‘sideways disinheritance’ trap, where a second spouse could choose to leave the property to their children, excluding the children of the first marriage.
If you would like to talk to one of our property experts or Will writers, ring us on 01243 216900 or email us at email@example.com.
When you’re writing your Will, you will need to choose the right person to be your executor. We look at what being an executor entails and whether that person can also be a beneficiary.
It is important when writing your Will that the executor you name is someone you trust to deal with your affairs after you’ve gone. Estate administration can be a long and sometimes complicated matter and you need to be sure that the person you have chosen is willing to act and capable of doing so.
It is perfectly acceptable for your executor to be a beneficiary as well, in fact this is often the case.
The role of executor
Your executor will be responsible for all administrative matters, starting with funeral arrangements and registering the death with the appropriate authorities. You can choose more than one executor should you wish.
They need to notify all asset holders and other organisations and then collect in and value the assets.
Other ancillary jobs such as putting vacant property insurance in place and making arrangements to check on any property regularly also fall to the executor.
Once the estate has been valued, tax needs to be calculated and paid. This includes Inheritance Tax, Income Tax and in some instances Capital Gains Tax.
Once the estate is in funds, outstanding debts need to be paid and estate accounts prepared.
The final job is to distribute the estate to the beneficiaries. This may involve transfer of assets and gifts of personal possessions as well as cash payments.
The role of beneficiary
A beneficiary will be notified that they have been left something in the Will, but won’t necessarily be regularly updated on the probate process unless there are delays. As well as receiving their named gift, they are also entitled to see the estate accounts.
If no valid Will exists
Where the deceased didn’t leave a Will, their estate passes under the Rules of Intestacy, which state that assets pass to close family members in a strict order. The spouse is at the top of the list, with children next. The person heading the list is entitled to act as executor if they choose. If they do not wish to take on the role, then the next person has the option of doing it.
By ensuring that you have a valid Will in place, you have the chance to appoint your choice of executor as well as ensuring that your assets are left to those you wish to benefit.
If you would like to talk to one of our expert Will writers, ring us on on 01243 216900 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When making a Will it is essential to have the legal and mental ability to understand the document and its effect. Without this, a Will is invalid and cannot be used. In the absence of any other Will, the estate would then pass under the Rules of Intestacy.
A survey of family solicitors carried out by insurer Direct Line found that lack of testamentary capacity was a common cause of a successful challenge to a Will’s validity.
We look at the legal requirements to satisfy this requirement.
The criteria for testamentary capacity
The person making the Will must firstly understand the nature of making a Will and its effects.
Secondly, they need to understand the extent of the property of which they are disposing.
Thirdly, they need to be able to understand and appreciate the moral claims that people may have on their estate, for example those who they support or those who have been promised something and who may have acted on that promise to their detriment.
Finally, they need to have no disorder of the mind that prevents them understanding what is right or stops them exercising their natural faculties.
When testamentary capacity is challenged
If testamentary capacity is challenged in court, then evidence would be needed from witnesses who could attest to the deceased’s mental capabilities as well as their ability to understand the Will and the claims others might have on their estate.
Expert witnesses could be called, such as doctors, who may have known the deceased at the time the Will was written.
The court will also look at anything the deceased may have said with regard to distribution of their estate.
Avoiding a legal challenge for lack of capacity
Court action can be lengthy and expensive for all involved. It is worth taking the time and trouble to put a valid Will in place before there are any doubts as to testamentary capacity.
If a Will is drafted professionally, then the Will writer will take the time to discuss matters thoroughly with you and make their own assessment of your capacity. They can make filenotes, to be kept at their offices in case they are ever needed, confirming their belief that you were capable of making a valid Will.
If the case ever came to court, they would be able to give evidence as an experienced Will writer that in their assessment you had testamentary capacity.
Should they believe that a case is borderline, they may also ask for a medical professional to become involved to provide additional evidence.
If you would like to talk to one of our expert Wills lawyers, call us on 01243 216900 or email us at email@example.com.
When someone dies leaving a Will that creates a Trust, it can have implications for the person dealing with the administration of the estate.
A Will may leave property or assets to a Trust so that an individual may benefit from them during their lifetime without actually owning them. For example, the deceased may have wanted their partner to be able to continue to live in their home, but might want it to pass eventually to children. Or they may want to leave money to children for their maintenance and education.
Estate administration and Will Trusts
The need to set up a Will Trust doesn’t alter the need for an executor to obtain probate. In some cases, where the assets fall below a certain threshold, probate might not be required.
Setting up a Will Trust
The executor is responsible for creating the Will Trust. They will ensure that assets are properly transferred to the trust and that the trustees named in the Will have access to them and are aware of their obligations under the terms of the Will.
Once the assets have been transferred, the trustees will be responsible for looking after them and distributing them to the beneficiaries as specified.
Types of Will Trust
A Life Interest Trust gives a beneficiary the right to benefit from an asset during their lifetime. This could include maintenance payments or living in a property. Once the beneficiary has died, the assets pass in accordance with the terms of the original Will.
A Discretionary Trust gives the trustees the right to distribute funds to named beneficiaries as they see fit. For example, there may be a request to fund education or provide a lump sum towards the purchase of a home.
Money held in Trust for a Minor will be looked after by the trustees until the child reaches the age specified in the Will. This doesn’t have to be 18 – it may be 21 or 25 or even older if the deceased wished.
A Nil Rate Band Trust may have been included in a Will as part of Inheritance Tax (IHT) planning. While it is no longer a requirement, older Wills may still contain this type of trust, which transfers assets amounting to the maximum sum the deceased could give under a Will without being liable for IHT.
Help with Will drafting and administration
Creating a valid Will that does exactly what you want and makes the best use of assets in the light of IHT and other considerations can be complicated.
Dealing with the administration of a Will and setting up of a Will Trust may also have tax implications. Obtaining professional advice means that you can be sure that assets are maximised.
To speak to one of our expert probate lawyers at legalmatters, call us on 01243 216900 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A funeral is usually arranged by close family members of the deceased, but what happens if they disagree, or if someone else has the legal right to arrange the funeral?
If the deceased has left a valid Will, then the named Executors have the right to organise the funeral and either a burial or cremation. If there is no valid Will, then the Rules of Intestacy govern the appointment of an Administrator to deal with the deceased’s affairs, including funeral arrangements.
An Administrator will always be a family member, but it is possible that an Executor won’t be, for example if the deceased appointed a friend.
In that case, the Executor can choose to step aside and let the family arrange the funeral that they want.
When disagreements arise
If the Executor has different wishes to the family and a dispute arises, it is the Executor who has the right to make the arrangements.
If people have differing views on what should happen, it can be very upsetting at a time that is already difficult. The best way to proceed is to keep communicating and compromise if you can, to try as far as possible to avoid conflict.
If the parties involved cannot agree on funeral arrangements, then an application can be made to the Court, who may decide in favour of the legally appointed Executor or Administrator provided they have acted reasonably.
Where the disagreement is between two or more appointees, the Court will decide the matter on the facts. If the deceased has expressed any wishes in the Will, these are taken into account, although these wishes are not in themselves legally binding.
The importance of leaving a Will
Leaving a valid Will that includes an expression of funeral and burial or cremation wishes may help to avoid expensive and upsetting disagreements after death.
It is possible to request a professional Executor in a Will, such as a solicitor, who will act in accordance with the deceased’s wishes as far as possible. This can also help to avoid disagreement between relatives.
If an unmarried person dies without making a valid Will, then their partner can be left with no say in the funeral decisions as well as receiving nothing from the deceased’s estate, as the Rules of Intestacy do not include those not directly related.
A Will can be a record of what the deceased wants to happen after their death, as well as ensuring that their estate is distributed to chosen family and friends.
To speak to one of our expert probate solicitors, call legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at email@example.com.
When you’re expecting a baby there’s a long list of things to do to get ready. Making a Will isn’t usually at the top of the list, and for many people it isn’t even something they think about at all. But in reality, it’s an important job that could seriously impact your family’s future.
Nobody wants to think about a situation in which children lose their parents, but covering every eventuality means that once you have children you can relax and enjoy life safe in the knowledge that you have drawn up plans for their future care should the worst happen.
When parents don’t make a Will
If anything happens to you and you haven’t made a Will, then those left behind will not necessarily know what your wishes were with regard to your children’s upbringing.
The authorities will have the right to place your children with the guardian they decide upon, and there could be a delay in finalising this, which could be even more unsettling for all involved.
Failing to plan and talk things over with family members could also cause disagreement between them.
As far as financial provision is concerned, this will be governed by the Rules of Intestacy, and you will have lost the opportunity to appoint your choice of trustees to look after the money you leave and decide how it should best be spent.
Writing your Will when you’re a parent
Writing a Will allows you to clearly set out who you would like to care for your children should you die. You can also make financial provision for your children, choosing the age at which you would like them to inherit any money you leave them. For example, you may decide that you don’t want them to be given a large sum of money at 18, and that you would prefer them to inherit it when they are older and more settled in life.
You will appoint trustees to administer the money until that time and leave instructions for how they can use it for your children as they grow up, for example a private education or money towards the purchase of a home.
The trustees will also be able to pay money to your children’s guardian, for everyday expenditure such as food, clothing and school expenses.
Choose people whom you trust implicitly and whom you believe are capable of carrying out your wishes as well as looking after the money that you leave. This fund will eventually be inherited by your children so it is important that it is properly managed.
If you would like to talk to one of our expert wills and trusts lawyers, call legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When you lose someone you love it is always a difficult time. Having to deal with the paperwork involved in administering an estate after a death – and when you’re grieving – can be extremely upsetting.
That’s why at legalmatters we will always try to make the process as pain-free as possible for you – and why we’re always delighted to hear from a client when we’ve helped a family or an individual through such a stressful time. So thank you Jane for your kind words.
“Thank you and Megan, and all in the office staff for making my journey – sorting my dad’s estate through yourself and legalmatters – a professional, reassuring and stress free time. It’s been a pleasure and I would highly recommend you to friends.”
When making a Will, it is possible to leave someone a life interest in your property or assets.
It may be more prudent in certain circumstances to leave your spouse or partner a life interest in your assets rather than giving them outright ownership.
In particular this can be advantageous if you want to make sure any children you have receive something in the future.
Possible problems in leaving assets outright
Married couples often make duplicate Wills, leaving everything to each other and then after both their deaths, to their children.
The problem with this is that after the death of the first parent, unforeseen circumstances could mean that either the Will becomes invalid or the money in the estate is spent before it can be inherited.
For example, if the remaining parent remarries, any previous Will automatically becomes invalid. If the parent fails to make a new Will, their assets will pass under the Rules of Intestacy, with the majority of the estate going to the new spouse, who is then free to leave it elsewhere in their own Will. Even if they intend to honour an intention to pass the money to the children, it may be spent, for example on care home fees.
Similarly, if a new Will is written, any previous Will is superseded. This could mean that after the death of the first parent, the remaining parent is free to leave the whole estate elsewhere and not to the children.
Finally, if the remaining parent moves to a care home, then assets in the estate can be swallowed up in fees. At present the local authority will only step in to assist with payments when the patient’s total worth falls below £23,250.
How a life interest works
By leaving someone a life interest, you can be sure that ultimately your assets will pass to those you choose.
For example, you can leave your spouse a life interest in your home, which means they can live there as long as they want, but once they have died or left, your share will pass in accordance with your Will and cannot be given elsewhere.
This also prevents your share being used to pay their care home fees.
Similarly you can leave a life interest in other assets, including cash and shares. This allows your spouse access to money and interest for living expenses, but means that the money remaining after their death will go to your children, or whoever you have chosen.
If you would like to discuss whether leaving a life interest in your Will might be suitable for you, call legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at email@example.com.
While no-one really wants another task to do before they go away on holiday, it really is a good idea to make sure you have a valid Will in place before you travel.
Taking a trip will always involve a small risk, and many people take out insurance just in case something happens. Think of a Will in the same way; it probably won’t be needed, but once you have it in place, you can forget about it and enjoy your break.
Increased risk level on holiday
When we’re away, we often try activities we wouldn’t at home, and they may well be things we’re not proficient at. While there is rarely a problem, very occasionally things can go wrong.
Some countries have lower road safety levels than the UK, meaning a higher risk of an accident while travelling. Some places face regular natural disasters such as flooding, subsidence, earthquakes or tsunamis.
There are diseases in some countries that can on occasion be fatal or a risk of injury or poisoning from the local wildlife, and medical care might be of a lower standard than you would wish.
While these are not common occurrences, insurance companies understand that the risks do exist. It makes sense to put a Will in place, in the same way that we might arrange an insurance policy.
Why you should make sure you have a Will
If you die intestate, ie. without a valid Will in place, your money and assets such as your home and personal possessions will pass under the Rules of Intestacy, to particular members of your family. You may have wished to leave your money elsewhere, or in different proportions, but without a Will, no-one will be able to carry out your wishes.
You can also include requests about your funeral, what should happen if you die overseas and details regarding care of any minor children if you have them. This can cover not only who you would like to become their legal guardian, but also financial provision.
It is always a good idea to have a Will in place, even if you aren’t planning any travelling. This applies to every age group, not just older generations. If you have any assets, then it makes sense to make your wishes clear, so that they can go to those you choose.
While no-one enjoys thinking about writing their Will, once it is in place there is usually a sense of relief, knowing that your wishes have been recorded and will be carried out should anything happen to you. In the meantime you are free to relax and enjoy life, including any trips you have planned.
If you would like to talk to someone about writing your Will, speak to one of our team at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.