SIGNpost : Brief Guide to Wills
Given the changing nature of families, with fewer
marriages and increasing divorces, the fact that 7 out of 10 people
never make a will is incredible.
Although it is not the happiest
subject to discuss, such a relatively simple and inexpensive task can
provide peace of mind, and potentially save significant costs and
heartache following your death. Detailed below is some information you
might find helpful.
is always wise to obtain professional advice to ensure that your wishes
will actually be carried out after your death. A solicitor will charge
anything between £40 and £75 for preparing a standard will.
Circumstances such as the complexity of the provisions and whether
complicated tax-planning clauses are involved can increase the cost.
Always give the solicitor an indication of the requirements of your
will and ask how much the charge will be before committing yourself.
is not recommended that you use a pre-printed form or questionnaire to
write your will, even if a reputable firm has produced it. The wording
may not convey your intentions, and in the event you will not be there
to clarify what you meant.
wishing to make or change your will (if you have a will you should
review it periodically) you should complete a checklist prior to
visiting a solicitor - including financial information, guardianship
details (if dependent children or relatives), executors details and
are the people appointed in the will to deal with all your affairs
after your death. Think carefully before appointing a bank or solicitor
as an executor, particularly if your estate is straightforward or
relatively small, as the fees can be quite high. Should executors
require assistance your local Probate Office gives comprehensive
advice, information can also be obtained on the Internet at http://www.courtservice.gov.uk
or from your local Citizens Advice Bureau. Two useful leaflets are D49
"What to do after a death in England and Wales" available from the
Benefits Agency and "What to do after a death in Scotland" from the
Power of Attorney
There are two types of Power of Attorney (POA):
- A standard POA - coves a situation where the donor is able to understand what is happening;
- An enduring POA continues to be operative beyond the donor's loss of mental faculties.
As people grow older, or if someone becomes seriously ill or is due
for treatment for a serious illness there may be good reasons for
providing a POA to a person who can act on their behalf.
POA authorises the appointee to sign a will on behalf of the donor and
there are also strict limits about granting gifts. There are proper
legal procedures for establishing and registering POAs and legal advice
should always be obtained.
Joint Bank Accounts
should be aware that if the account requires both signatures on a
cheque, on the death of one partner the account is automatically
frozen. Where the account requires only one signature, the practice is
generally that on production of a death certificate the account remains
open in the name of the surviving signatory. If you have any concerns
you should contact your bank or building society.
If property if owned abroad it is essential to take advice on the rules of what constitutes a valid will in that country.
are some considerable differences in law, practice and procedure in
Scotland with regard to intestacy, legal rights, the death of a
beneficiary and the co-ownership of property.
preparation of a simple will could prevent a great deal of problems and
anguish after your death, but remember it pays to get professional
advice. Many charities (e.g. Help The Aged and Age Concern) produce
information packs on Wills and Power of Attorneys or contact SIGNpost
and we can provide you with further information.
Note that the values in the chart below have not been updated since the original publication.