What should I put in my will? The content of your will is determined by 2 main considerations: (1) What estate are you likely to leave (both in terms of amount as well as type of assets), and (2) To whom would you like to leave it? So the first issue is what is in my estate? Your estate is everything you own at the time of your death, including your money, possessions, property and investments. It includes not just land but savings, occupational and personal pensions, insurance policies, bank and building society accounts, and shares. Unless there is special reason such as the need to continue ownership of a family run business or specific items are left to someone then usually the will provides for the estate to be converted into money (i.e. sold) and for the proceeds to be divided in the proportions stipulated in the will. All your debts must be paid (including funeral expenses) before your estate is distributed between the beneficiaries (the people you are leaving your estate to). You should also remember that as title to any property owned jointly will pass automatically to the other owner on your death this means you cannot leave your share to someone else in your will. On the other hand if title to the property is held under a tenancy in common you can leave your share to someone else. The type of joint ownership you have will depend on what was agreed when you bought the property. For example, if you have a joint bank account, money in the account automatically passes to the other account holder on your death, so you cannot leave your half of the account to someone else in your will. To whom would you like to leave your estate? Legacies – specific legacies; residuary beneficiaries and partial intestacy You should think about who you want to leave your estate to (known as the “beneficiaries”); whether these are individuals or an organisations such as a charities, and what would be the most effective way of leaving them a gift in your will (known as a “legacy”). If you are leaving specific possessions to specific people, you must make sure that you give enough details to ensure that there is no doubt as to the identity of the possessions or who they should go to e.g. beneficiaries should be identified by their full names and their relationship to you. You should take into account that your circumstances may have changed greatly by the time of your death. You need to make sure your will and the way it is drawn up does not create problems. For example, if a beneficiary dies before you, or you are worth significantly more or less than at the time you signed the will then unless you have considered these possibilities you could end up with a partial intestacy and the property being allocated under the intestacy rules to someone you would never have wanted to get it. One important way of avoiding this particular problem is to name a residuary beneficiary. This is the person or charity that receives the remainder of your estate once any specified gifts have been made. This would prevent a partial intestacy. Executors Executors are the people who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes and for organising and distributing (“administering”) the estate. They have to identify and secure all assets and property that form your estate, deal with all the documentation and pay all debts, taxes, and funeral and administration costs. Their duties include paying out legacies and arranging the transfer of title of any property to beneficiaries. Only appoint someone you trust as the position involves a not just a lot of work and responsibility but in dishonest hands could be used to defraud the estate. Always obtain the consent of the person you wish to appoint as they may not wish to take on this onerous responsibility. The executors can be relatives or friends, or a professional such as a solicitor. Executors can be beneficiaries under the will and often people appoint their spouse, civil partner or children as executors (do not confuse a beneficiary being an executor with a beneficiaries being a witness – beneficiaries and their spouses cannot witness the will as if they do the gift is void). It is not necessary to appoint more than one executor although it is advisable to do so in case one of them dies. Usually four executors are appointed so they can share the work. Executors can claim expenses incurred carrying out their duties from the estate. If the estate is large or complicated, you can appoint a professional executor such as a solicitor, accountant or bank manager but as they will charge the estate for the work they do check what the likely charges will be. A reputable solicitor’s charges should be clear and transparent at the outset. It is preferable to get a fixed rate rather than a solicitor who charges by the hour as fixed rate solicitors tend to be far more competitive leaving more of your estate for your beneficiaries to enjoy. For more on probate click on the drop down or revisit derby probate solicitors.