Things to consider
The first step in making a will is to consider what would happen if you died without one. If a person dies without leaving a valid will the intestacy rules are applied to his or her estate to determine who is entitled to deal with the estate and to whom it should pass. A person’s estate is, generally, everything they own at the date of death minus everything they owe.
By making a will you can specify who should deal with your estate and enforce your will, i.e. your "executor", and to whom it should be distributed, i.e. your "beneficiaries". We advise that your executor should be an adult that you trust, someone who is capable of being an executor and is willing to do it. It may be a relative or a friend or could be a professional, such as a solicitor. Your executor can be a beneficiary and benefit under the will. For each of your beneficiaries you should be clear as to what you want to leave to him or her. You may wish to leave to a beneficiary a specific gift; for example your house, an item of jewellery or a specific amount of money, or a share of your overall estate. In any case, your will should distribute everything in your estate and this is done by making a gift of "residue", i.e. a gift of everything else not already given away in your will.
Inheritance tax and estate planning
We will advise you as to the practical implications of your will, including the effect of inheritance tax. The rate of inheritance tax is 40% at present but there are certain exemptions from inheritance tax which are available. The spousal and charitable exemptions allow you to give any amount of your estate to your spouse or to a registered charity free from inheritance tax. The individual exemption allows every individual to give away a certain amount free of inheritance tax; currently that amount is £325,000. It is also possible to claim an unused individual exemption or the unused part of it from the estate of the pre-deceased spouse of the person who has died. We can advise you as to which exemptions are available and their effect.
Reviewing your will
We advise that you review your will regularly, especially if your circumstances change, to ensure that at any point in time it still meets your requirements.
For a standard, straightforward will we charge £300 plus VAT. If you require a more complex document, for example a will involving trusts, our fees will be higher and we can provide an estimate to you once we have discussed your requirements. Similarly, if you require specific inheritance tax and estate planning advice, we can provide a costs estimate to you following our initial meeting.
[Correct as at March 2014]