So the leaves have turned, the clocks have gone back and everyone seems to be thinking about that most scary of things; making a Will!
There's something about Autumn which seems to make people get things in order, perhaps it's a natural preparation for Winter. This time every year, we notice a downturn in residential conveyancing, but a big surge in appointments for not only Wills, but Lasting Powers of Attorney. Let's grab the bull by the horns then and think about making a Will; if you've been putting it off, rest assured you are not alone! There is really nothing scary about it, the reality is that if you take away what it represents, then it's really just making a series of decisions and getting them written down; your wishes in a completely clear form. Just because you are making a Will doesn't make you any more or less likely to pop off, though I remember when I made mine, once the decision was made I couldn't wait to sign it in case anything happened to me in the meantime! As with all our clients, once it was signed, witnessed and securely stored away, I forgot about it and got back to normal again - phew!
So, what do you need to think of? Firstly, who's going to act as your executor or executors (the person or people who deal with your estate)? This could be your spouse, your children, your solicitor, a relative, friend or a combination of any of those; some people have one person, others have two or three. You then need to think about how you would like what you own to be dealt with and who should have it. You will probably wish give a combination of percentages of the whole of what you leave, perhaps set amounts to some people and possibly individual items such as jewellery to relatives or friends who you know would treasure them. So, for example, you may wish to give everything to your spouse apart from gifts of £10,000 to each of your children, £5,000 to your lifelong friend, your engagement ring to your granddaughter, your car to your grandson and £100 to the lady down the road who kindly does your shopping for you now and then. You may then think that it would be nice to leave some money to charity, or indeed you may wish to leave your entire estate or a good part of it to one or more charities. This could either be a percentage or a specific amount. You will also need to think of who you would wish to be the guardian(s) of your children, if you're making a Will at that time in your life. So, that's the bulk of it decided. You may wish to consider the grisly bit of whether to be buried, scattered, floated out to sea, or launched into space, but that may be a step too far, so don't go there!
So you've thought of all the above (apart perhaps of the grisly one!) and you now need to chat it though with a solicitor, in our case either Jonathan or Charles, neither of whom is the least bit scary. They will discuss your wishes with you either here, or if you live locally and would find it difficult to get here, at your home on a free home visit. They will proably advise about things you may not have thought of and ask you who, for example, should inherit your spouse's share if that person passes before you, (note that we try to limit our use of the 'd' word, so pass, pop off etc are good!). What Jonathan and Charles do is to ensure that the Will will stand once it is signed, covering as many possibilities as necessary and that's the tricky bit.
So then we produce a draft for you to read through, checking that all the names, addresses etc are correct and also that it's exactly as you wish. You may have re-thought certain gifts which is not a problem, we simply alter them until you're happy. You then need to sign it and have your signature witnessed by two people; usually two of us here. You then breath a sigh of relief! We then either give you the original, or if you decide that you would like us to store the original in our safe storage facility at no cost to you, we give you a photocopy of the signed original. That's it, you go on your merry way and join the ranks of the sensible people who have made a Will or updated an old one!
We charge £195 plus VAT for a straightforward single Will, or £295 plus VAT for straightforward 'mirror Wills', which is when two of you make reciprocal or very similar Wills involving largely the same people. We charge nothing for a nice cup of tea and a bisuit!
If you still can't face it, I can assure you that amongst other things we've taken instructions and witnessed the Will in our garden; on the pavement with the person still in their car and have welcomed numerous dogs to our office who came presumably as moral support! Your request would be nothing out of the ordinary!
To find out more about Lasting Powers of Attorney, please click here.