Having considered some of the many reasons for producing a will, it is necessary to look at exactly what goes into a will.
Essentially, the purpose of a will is to ensure that everything that you have accumulated in your life is disposed of in accordance with your own desires. The main areas to consider when formulating a will are:
Money you have saved, in whatever form
Any buildings (property) you may own
Any land you have
Any insurance policies you may have. This is of utmost importance
Any shares you may own
Trusts set up
Any personal effects
Money you have saved
Money is treated as part of your wider estate and will automatically go to those named as main beneficiaries. However, you might wish to make individual bequests to other people outside your family. These have to be specified. When including any provisions in your will relating to money, you should be very clear about the whereabouts of any saving accounts or endowments, premium bonds etc. Life becomes very difficult if you have left sums of money but there is no knowledge of the whereabouts of this. Inevitably, solicitors have to be employed and this becomes very expensive indeed.
It is necessary to make provisions for any property you have. If you are the sole owner of a property then you can dispose of it as you wish. Any organisation with a superior interest would take an interest, particularly if there are mortgages outstanding. It is important to remember that if you are a joint owner of a property, such as a joint tenancy, then on death this joint ownership reverts to the other joint owner, bringing it into sole ownership. Leasehold property can be different only in so much as the executor of an estate will usually need permission before assigning a lease. This can be obtained from the freeholder.
Although the same principles apply to land as to property, indeed often the two are combined, in certain circumstances land may be owned separately. In this case the land and everything on it can be left in the will.
The contents of any insurance policy needs to be checked carefully. In certain cases there are restrictions on who can benefit on death. Particular people may be specified and you have no alternative but to let such people benefit, even thought your own circumstances may have changed. If there are no restrictions then you can bequeath any money as you see fit.
Shares and trusts
Share can normally be bequeathed in a will as anything else. However, depending on the type of share it is just possible that there may be restrictions. One such situation is where shares are held in private company and there may be a buy back clause.
Trusts can be set up for the benefit of family and friends. However, a trust, by its very nature is complex as the law dealing with trusts is complex. It is absolutely essential to seek specialist advice when setting up trusts.
Although you are perfectly entitled to leave specific items of personal effects in your will, such legacies are separate from those of other possessions such as money or land. The law recognises that in some cases there may not be enough money to pay expenses related to your death. Any money owed will be retrieved from any financial gifts you have outlined. However, personal effects cannot be touched if you have clearly identified those in your will. This includes items of value such as jewellery. It is not enough to be general at this point. You must specify exactly what it is you are leaving and to whom. Remember, certain gifts will be taxable.
It is common practice to include such matters as how you wish to be buried, in what manner and the nature of the ceremony, in your will. You should discuss these arrangements with your next of kin in addition to specifying them in your will as arrangements may be made for a funeral before details of a will are made public. Another way to detail your wishes in a letter and pass this on to your executor to ensure that the details are known beforehand.
There is no reason why any of your instructions should not be carried out, subject to the law. However, your executor can override your wishes if necessary and expedient.
You can, in addition, make your own wishes for maintenance of your grave after your death. Agreement of the local authority, or relevant burial authority must be sought and there is no obligation on them to do this. In addition, there is a time limit of 99 years in force.
The use of your body after death
It could be that you have decided to leave your body for medical research or donate your organs. This can be done during your final illness, in writing or in front of a minimum of two witnesses. You should contact your local hospital or GP about this, they will supply you with more details.
Making a recital
A recital consists of a statement at the end of your will which explains how and why you have drawn up the will in the way you have. This is not commonly done but sometimes may be necessary, especially if you have cut out people out of your will but do not intend to cause confusion or hurt.
Recitals are sometimes necessary in order to clarify a transfer of authority to others on your death. This could be in business for example. In addition, you may wish to recognise someone’s contribution to your life, for example a long serving employee or a particular friend.