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Well, answered by the mouthpiece of Will writing experts. I’m just the content writer. Our actual Will writing experts have given me the information and I’m going to jhujh (or however you spell that word – zhuzh? zhujgh?) it up for you. Make it more exciting, anyway. About as exciting as talking about Wills can be. So, without further ado, here are the top 15 FAQs about Wills.
1. Do step-children have inheritance rights in England & Wales?
Nope. Not under the rules of intestacy, anyway. The only way a step-child could inherit from you is if you’ve formally adopted them or you’ve included them, by name, in a valid Will. They have to be specifically named, too. You can’t just write ‘my children’, or, by the letter of the law, they won’t be included.
If you haven’t formally adopted them, and you haven’t written them specifically into your Will, they aren’t entitled to inherit.
2. What are the rules of intestacy in England & Wales?
They’re rules, set by the government, that decide what happens to your assets if you die without a Will. England and Wales follow the same set of rules, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own. Spoiler alert: they’re pretty awful.
They’re inflexible and they don’t take personal circumstance into account. They just follow the letter of the law. So, for example, if your spouse cheated on you and you’d split up, but never officially divorced, if you died without a Will they’d still inherit most, if not all, of your estate.
They follow the letter of the law because, to be fair, they have to. That’s little consolation to you, though, if all your stuff goes to someone you hate.
For a full breakdown of the rules, check out our blog post – Why do I need a Will? Wills and the rules of intestacy.
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3. Can you write your own Will?
Yep. You could get a piece of paper right now and write a Will. Problem is, Wills are complex legal documents. If you don’t have any legal training, there’s a pretty big chance you’ll make a mistake and invalidate the whole thing.
If you use a specialist Will writer like Vital Documents, you can be confident that your Will’s going to be legal, valid, and enactable. Our specialists are trained in writing Wills. That’s their whole job.
Another benefit of using a trained Will writer instead of writing your own is that they know how to get the most of your assets. They can help you protect them, with things like Trusts, or advise you on Inheritance Tax. Again, I’ve written a full blog post on this, if you fancy a more in-depth read.
4. Is a handwritten Will legal in England & Wales?
Yep – what makes a Will legal is the signing of it. As long as it’s signed in front of two witnesses, who also add their signatures, it’s a legally binding document. In theory, I suppose you could write it in crayon. Don’t do that, though. You aren’t a Rugrat. Come on now.
The problem with a handwritten Will is that if it’s handwritten, you’ve written it yourself. See point 3.
5. Can you do a Will online?
Yep. Quite a lot of people do. You could look into making an online Will if you’ve got a pretty straightforward estate. If your estate’s a bit more complex, though, and you’re thinking about Inheritance Tax and Trusts, you might want to look into Bespoke Wills. Have a read up on both and think about which one’s best for you.
6. How much does it cost to make a Will?
It’s a bit of a how-long’s-a-piece-of-string question. It depends on how complicated your Will is (and which company you use to help you write it).
At Vital Documents, we work on a simple tier system with flat rates – more complex Wills fall into the more expensive bracket, simpler Wills are a bit cheaper. What you see is what you get with our price list – we’ll tell you the complete cost upfront.
7. How much money can you inherit tax-free in England & Wales?
Generally, you don’t have to pay tax when you inherit. You might need to pay income tax on stuff you inherit – so if you inherit a property and you’re renting it out, your rental income will be taxed.
If you inherit a hefty sum, it could affect Inheritance Tax paid on your estate when you die – it could push your total assets over the threshold.
8. Does a Will avoid probate?
Nope. Probate’s dependent on the value of the estate – it doesn’t really have anything to do with the Will.
A ‘small’ estate might not need to go through probate. Small’s relative, though isn’t it? Different banks and financial institutions have different thresholds. Some’ll need you to go through probate for as little as £5,000 others won’t require probate for anything less than £50,000. You’re best off checking with your bank or financial institution.
9. Does a Will override a Trust?
No. If a Trust’s created in lifetime, or is formed as part of someone else’s Will, the assets in it are no longer a part of the deceased’s estate. It’s the property of the Trust and the Testators manage it. A Will won’t interfere with that.
10. Will inheritance affect my benefits?
11. What are sibling inheritance laws in England & Wales?
There’s no direct inheritance laws for siblings. They can potentially inherit if you don’t have a Will – but only if you’re unmarried, without children (or grand-children), and your parents have died. In that case, following the rules of intestacy, siblings would inherit.
If you’re wanting to leave something to a sibling, just name them in your Will. You can do what you want with your assets if you have a Will.
12. Does inheritance have to go through probate?
Technically no, but in all likelihood, yes. Inheritance is still classed as part of the deceased’s estate until you receive it, and the chances are that the estate will go through probate. But, like I mentioned in point 8, it all depends on how much the estate is worth.
13. Are Wills and Trusts public records?
Worried about curtain-twitching Carol across the road sticking her big beak in?
If you set up a Trust, she won’t be able to snoop into that. Most Trusts do need to be registered on the Trust Registration Service, but the public can’t access it.
She won’t be able to nosy around your Will, either – while you’re alive. If your estate goes through probate (and it probably will), the Will’s then on public record. Anyone with information about the deceased can request it. Bit annoying, I know.
14. Are Online Wills legal in England & Wales?
Yep – like I said earlier, the thing that makes a Will legal is if it’s signed properly.
You could have an Online Will printed off and signed in as little as, like, half an hour. Sounds fast and convenient, doesn’t it? It can be, if your estate’s simple. The only issue is it won’t have been checked over by a specialist Will writer. You’ve got no real way of knowing that the Will’s enactable. It might not fit your circumstances exactly – that uncertainty is still there.
If you want to eliminate all doubt, you should probably use a professional Will writer.
15. Do you have to name an Executor in your Will in England & Wales?
If you don’t reference an Executor at all, the probate court chooses one for you.
If you’re wanting to choose your Executor, you don’t need to specifically name one. You could just make reference to who you want – but make sure it’s clear to the courts who you mean. So if you had a couple of kids, for example, you’d be alright to put something like ‘I appoint my oldest child as my Executor’. It’s a lot easier and lot less risky to just name someone, though.
And there you have it! The 15 most common questions we’ve had about Wills, believe it or not. Probably not, ‘cos some of them seem pretty random, but they genuinely are. If you need to get your Will sorted, why not give us a shout? Ring us on +44 (0)330 229 0331 or visit our website. Or, if you’re a busy bee, why not use our service to arrange a call back at a time that suits you? Just pick a convenient time and we’ll give you a ring, see how we can help.
If you’ve got a question we haven’t answered yet, just drop us a comment below. I’m sure we’ll be able to help!