In the UK last year, more than 40% of deceased passed away without having a will, often because it seemed premature to write a will, or the rules appeared too complicated. However, a will is an important way to protect your family and loved ones. It can potentially save you tax and avoid family disputes about how your assets should be divided.

A will is a legally binding document which sets out what should happen to your money, possessions and property, collectively called your ‘estate’. It can also deal with the guardianship of any children who are minors, after you pass away.

If you pass away without having a will, the law sets out how your estate should be dealt with, which will not necessarily be in line with your wishes. In the long-term, writing your will and engaging in constructive conversations about your end of life choices with your loved ones is a prudent investment of time to consider.

You can write your own will, or engage a professional to write one for you. A valid will has to be in writing, physically signed by you, and witnessed and by two people who must also sign the will, providing their full name, address and occupation. Both witnesses must be able to see you sign the will at the same time but they can do this at a distance, for example, through a window.

If you change your mind, or your circumstances change, your will can be revoked and replaced by a new will or amended by you at any time, using documents following the same formalities. Entering into a marriage will automatically revoke an earlier will. If you get divorced after making a will, a gift to your former spouse, or their appointment as an Executor, will be ineffective.

Information to gather before writing a will or instructing a professional
1. Your personal information and contact details, including marital status, domicile and whether you have an existing will
2. Spouse’s name and contact details
3. Names and contact details of children, step children, grandchildren and step grandchildren
4. Names and contact details of your Executor
5. Key documents relating to your assets, bank accounts, life insurance and pension schemes

Executors
An Executor is required to carry out your wishes and administer your estate in accordance with your will. They must be over 18 years old and not suffering from a mental incapacity. It is recommended that your Executor is willing and able to undertake this role, as well as be resident in the same territory as your estate. You can appoint your spouse, a family member or friend.  If you appoint a professional (such as a lawyer or an accountant) they will likely charge for their services. An Executor can act by themselves or jointly with another person.  You can also nominate a replacement Executor in case they are no longer able to perform the services at the time of your death.

Guardians
If you have any children under the age of 18, you should specify who you would like to be their Guardian(s) in case on your death the child is still a minor and their other parent is unable to look after the child. A Guardian should be made aware of their appointment, and be willing and able to undertake this role.  Age, responsibilities and residence are factors to bear in mind when choosing a Guardian. You can nominate a replacement Guardian if your first chosen Guardian is unable or unwilling to act at the date of your death.

Your Assets
Any assets that are held as joint tenants (two or more people sharing equal ownership with equal rights) will pass automatically to the survivor(s) and therefore their distribution is not dealt with under a will. 

Assets held as tenants in common (each owns a set share, either half each, or a defined percentage) can be left to whomever you wish.

You should list all current personal assets, how they are held and where they are situated for ease of administration. For example, if you have a savings account, provide the name of the bank or institution; the account number; sort code and any account name or reference. If you own land, residential or commercial property in another country it is advisable to have a separate will under that jurisdiction.

Specific Gifts
If you would like to make any specific gifts from your assets covered by your will, such as personal belongings or cash gifts, these should be clearly identified, along with the name of the recipient, their address and relationship to you. If you would like to understand how to make a gift to the Jamat or one of the Jamati agencies, such as Focus or AKF, you are respectfully requested to contact the President or Vice President of the National Council in the first instance.

Life Insurance and Pensions
It is recommended that you review the provisions of any applicable life, pensions and death in service policies or trusts to establish whether any benefits will fall within your estate on death.

Residuary Estate
Your residuary estate is the remainder following payment of any administration costs, debts and individual gifts. A UK domiciled individual is free to leave their residuary estate to whomever they wish. Consider whether you are currently providing financial or residential support to anyone, as claims may be made against an estate by persons who believe they have been left without reasonable financial provision. If your residuary estate is to be shared between one or more beneficiaries then include the percentage share of each recipient. You may also wish to consider what happens if a beneficiary should predecease you.

Keep your will safe
You can keep your will at your home, store it with your solicitor, your bank, or the London Probate Service. You should tell your Executor, relative or a close friend where your will is kept.

For further guidance regarding writing a will, the Legal Committee can be contacted at [email protected]

Please also see the following links for further information:


Government guidance
https://www.gov.uk/make-will

Online will writing resources
https://farewill.com
https://www.lawdepot.co.uk

Register of Solicitors in England & Wales
https://www.sra.org.uk/consumers/register
https://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk

 


This article is aimed at Jamati members located in England & Wales. The Legal Committee is looking to build capacity in all areas of the UK Jurisdiction Jamat. If you are able to assist or provide relevant guidance and information on these topics then we would love to hear from you.


Please note that the information contained in this article is intended as general guidance only and not legal advice, as each individual’s circumstances will differ.