Frequently asked questions
These are some of the most common questions we get asked about Wills. If you find that after looking through these questions you still have further enquiries, please contact us.What is a Will? What is Probate? What happens if I die without a Will? Can my Will cover my entire estate? Who will look after my children/dependents if I die without a Will? I have a Power of Attorney. Do I still need a Will? Do I need a Solicitor to make my Will legal? How can I change my Will? When can I change my will? Should anyone know that I have made a Will? Where should I keep my Will? Who should know where I keep my Will? Can people challenge my decisions after my death? What happens if I do not complete my Will properly? Does my age matter? What if there is not enough property to fulfil my wishes after my death? Are my debts forgiven when I die? How do my debts affect my Will? Does marriage, re-marriage or divorce affect my Will? What happens with insurance proceeds when I die? What happens with my pension when I die?
What is a Will?
A Will is a document containing directions setting out how the property of the person making the Will (the “Testator”) shall be distributed upon his or her death.Back to top
What is Probate?
A Court proceeding in which the validity of a Will is established and in general the distribution/administration of the property which passes under the Will.Back to top
What happens if I die without a Will?
If you die without a valid Will the outcome could be a legal and financial nightmare and an emotionally-devastating experience for your loved ones. Not having a Will at the time of death is called being Intestate. It means you have not left instructions.Back to top
Can my Will cover my entire Estate?
Probably not. There are many assets that may not pass to your intended Beneficiaries if they are not solely owned. For this reason it is important that you create an inventory as part of your overall estate planning. This way you can be sure that all of your assets will go to those you intend. Below we briefly summarise some specific examples of property that does not pass through a Will. If you have any questions, a financial Adviser, or estate planning professional can help you understand your own personal situation.
Some of your assets will pass outside of your Will because Beneficiaries are already named for them. For example, most individuals have already named Beneficiaries for their life insurance policies, pensions, retirement plans, and certain annuities.
If your property is held with another individual jointly and that co-owner survives you, it will not pass through your Will: joint owners with right of survivorship (usually spouses), tenants by entirety (spousal property) and revocable or irrevocable trusts.Back to top
Who will look after my children/dependents if I die without a Will?
If you have children and die without a Will nominating a Guardian for your underage children, English law applies. Typically, the law provides for the child's surviving parent to take custody of your child but ultimately, the decision is up to the Court relying on what the judge feels is most appropriate for the surviving child. A relative, or other person, can apply to the Court for an Order appointing them as Guardian. Completing a Will and nominating a Guardian provides the greatest assurance that control and custody of your children is granted to the individual(s) you prefer.Back to top
I have a Power of Attorney. Do I still need a Will?
Powers of Attorney have now been replaced by Lasting Powers of Attorney
A Power of Attorney comes to an end on your death.
A Will is needed to deal with distribution of your assets on death.Back to top
Do I need a Solicitor to make my Will legal?
No. It is not a legal requirement that a Will be prepared by a Solicitor. You may however wish to consult your Solicitor and accountant, depending on the complexity of your financial and personal situation.Back to top
How can I change my Will?
A Will can be changed by preparing a Codicil which is a document amending your Will. A Codicil must be signed and witnessed in the same way as a Will.
Codicils are intended to deal with relatively minor changes to a Will. If major changes are required, it is preferable to have a whole new will prepared.Back to top
When can I change my Will?
Your Will can be changed at any time provided you are of sound mind (mentally competent) at the time you wish to make the change(s).Back to top
Should anyone know that I have made a Will?
Yes. You should tell your Executor that you have prepared a Will. You may also want to tell your loved ones.Back to top
Where should I keep my Will?
Following the completion of your Will, you now must place your Will in a safe place.
Most individuals consider a safety deposit box for the storage of their Will. However, access to the safety deposit box can be difficult if it is not jointly held. An alternative to the safety deposit box is a home safe or a fire proof storage box in your home.Back to top
Who should know where I keep my Will?
There is no point preparing a Will if it cannot be found. If your Will is kept in a safety deposit box at a bank, a note should be made indicating where the Will is stored and the key to the box should be left somewhere where the Executor can find it.
It is also advisable to have copies made of your Will. One copy should be stored with your personal papers so it can be easily located.
You should consider telling your Executor or loved ones where you have stored your Will.Back to top
Can people challenge my decisions after my death?
It is always possible that people may challenge a Will after your death. Such challenges are generally based on the argument that you were not mentally competent, or that others pressured you, at the time your Will was made. While these challenges are generally unsuccessful, you should seek legal advice if you feel someone may challenge your will.Back to top
What happens if I do not complete my Will properly?
It is extremely important that your Will be completed properly.
If your Will is not completed properly, there is a risk the Will will not be valid. If that happens, it is equivalent to dying without a Will, i.e. Intestate, and English law applies, distributing your estate in accordance with the formulas of the laws of the land. These laws are inflexible and may not reflect your personal wishes or the needs of your loved ones.Back to top
Does my age matter?
You must be of the age of majority to prepare a valid, legally-binding Will.Back to top
What if there is not enough property to fulfil my wishes after my death?
If there are not enough assets to fulfil your wishes regarding specific bequests of cash, these bequests will be reduced proportionately. If there are only enough assets to deal with your specific bequests, the person(s) you leave the balance of your Estate to will receive nothing.Back to top
Are my debts forgiven when I die?
One of the duties of an executor is to determine the debts, including taxes, of the deceased person. The executor must determine what debts you have and must satisfy those debts, including taxes, from the proceeds of your estate prior to distributing your estate to your beneficiaries.Back to top
How do my debts affect my Will?
Your debts are paid from the proceeds of your estate prior to distribution of your Estate to Beneficiaries.Back to top
Does marriage, re-marriage or divorce affect my Will?
Getting married or divorced may automatically revoke your Will. We have compiled some basic information about revocation of wills under English law and this can be made available to upon request.Back to top
What happens with insurance proceeds when I die?
The death benefit payable under a life insurance policy is received by the deceased’s estate or by one or more named Beneficiaries. Insurance proceeds left to your estate are then dealt with pursuant to your intentions set-out in your Will. Insurance proceeds left to a specific named beneficiary do not form part of your estate and pass directly to the named beneficiary.Back to top
What happens with my pension when I die?
There are many types of pension plans and you should make specific inquiries to determine what will happen with your pension upon your death.Back to top