You’ve finally decided to make your will but you’re not sure whether to do it yourself or get professional help. It’s up to you but there are certain circumstances when it is definitely advisable to get professional advice.
If you own (or partially own) a business, you will need professional advice regarding the kinds of provision you should make in your will, so you don’t lose or waste the inheritance tax reliefs. You should also consider what administrative provisions to include so your executors can deal with the business during the administration of the estate and keep it going. You also need to ensure that any provisions you make in your will tie in with the provisions of the memorandum and articles of association, or any partnership or shareholders’ agreements relating to the business.
Get professional advice if you own an interest in any agricultural property to ensure you don’t lose or waste your inheritance tax exemptions. It can be quite complicated to work out whether your farming interests qualify for the relief or not. It could be owned by the testator solely or together with others as joint tenants or tenants in common. It could also be run as a company in which case it might also qualify for other reliefs if it fails to qualify as a farming interest. Whichever it is, make sure the provisions in your will deal with the actual position.
If you are a published author or poet, it means that you will have literary assets in your estate. You need a specialist’s advice regarding making a gift of that kind of asset in your will. The same thing applies if you are a singer, songwriter, or artist because your intellectual property needs to be gifted in the right way in your will. You also need to choose executors who understand and know how to get the best value out of your intellectual property. That’s why you see songs of famous people, for example, Elvis Presley, generating income for the estate long after they are gone. Someone who understands the music business and knows how to get value out of your intellectual property will know how to manage this for you.
Get professional advice on how best to make provision for stepchildren in your will. You may need to make certain declarations in your will regarding whether stepchildren are to be regarded in the same way as your children.
A partner you are not married to or in a civil partnership with
Get advice regarding providing for your partner if you are not married to or in a civil partnership with them. You can use trusts if you want them to have the use of some assets, like your property, rather than an outright gift.
Gift of property
Get advice regarding gifts of property because there is a lot to think about when making such gifts. Leave out certain things out and beneficiaries will have to go to court to figure out what you meant. If you own a house, it is absolutely essential that you get professional advice to understand how to make gifts of property in your will. It’s not just enough to say I leave my property to X, Y or Z. There are other provisions that you need to include to give complete clarity about the gift.
Jointly owned property
If you own a property jointly with someone, you need professional advice to be sure you own a separate share of the property that you can give away in your will. If you are joint tenants, your share will go automatically to your co-owner when you pass on rather than to the beneficiaries of your will. To pass your share in your will, you need to sever the tenancy so you own a separate share.
If you own any property abroad, use a professional so you can be sure they consider the laws relating to that country and whether you should make a separate will in that country.
Children with mental or physical disabilities
If you have a child or children with severe disabilities, you need professional advice regarding the best way to provide for them in your will. You could use a trust to preserve the inheritance tax advantages. Using a trust can also ensure that the inheritance does not affect State benefits they may be receiving.
Questions over mental capacity
If you do not have full mental capacity, perhaps suffering from dementia, it doesn’t mean you can’t make a will. It all depends on the stage of the disease. However, a solicitor will be able to give some guidance on how to ensure that your will is effective in those circumstances.
Physical disability or illiterate
If you are blind, illiterate, or have a physical disability that will affect your reading, signing, or understanding of the will, you must get professional advice. They will take the correct action to ensure your will cannot be challenged on the basis that you did not understand your will or that you did not sign it.
Restricting access to estate funds
If any of the beneficiaries are financially irresponsible or bankrupt, or if their marriage is heading for divorce, you can protect your estate by restricting how you give them access to the funds from your estate. You can do it through a trust and you need professional advice for that.
Using trusts generally
If you know about trusts and want to use them in some way in your will, whether for reducing inheritance tax, for protecting certain assets, or for any other reason, you need to take professional advice.
Inheritance tax mitigation
If the value of your estate is over the inheritance tax threshold, it is well worth taking professional advice at the time of making your will to see if you can reduce the potential inheritance tax liability. The provisions in your will can mean the difference between paying hundreds of thousands in inheritance tax and paying little or nothing.
Restrictions on spouse/civil partner
If you wish to impose restrictions on how your spouse or civil partner should inherit, you need to use a trust, and therefore, you must seek professional advice. You may wish, for example, to use a trust if you are worried about your spouse or civil partner remarrying after you are gone and passing your estate on to their new spouse rather than your children.
Wills that comply with your religious beliefs
If you practice a religion that requires your will to be compliant with specific rules, you have to get professional advice. For example, as a Muslim, you may want your will to be Sharia-compliant. This includes the rules regarding the distribution of the estate between your spouse and children. You need professional advice to ensure compliance with your religious tenets whilst, at the same time, making sure the will complies with the English laws of succession whilst also maintaining full inheritance exemptions and reliefs.
The best advice is to get professional help for all but the simplest estates and family circumstances. In any of the above situations however, you should get professional help for the preparation of your will if you want to avoid disputes later on. Contact us if you want a professional to make your will, especially if any of the above situations apply to you.