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It’s hard enough to write a Will. You’ve pretty much got to face your own mortality, and that’s not much fun.
There’s loads riding on your Will, too. It’s your last chance to protect your family when you’re gone, and it’s not like you can change it when you’re dead. You need to get it right while you can – you need to know exactly what you’re doing.
And while I’m sure you probably know what you should put in it, have you ever thought about what you should never put in your Will? Probably not – who walks around thinking ‘what shouldn’t I do today?’. But it’s something that you need to know, ‘cos otherwise it could cause complications with your Will and it might leave your loved ones in a bit of a pickle. In this blog, we’ll go through what you should never put in your Will.
What you should never put in your Will UK:
You’ve probably seen plots about conditional gifts in movies or books. They’re gifts that you leave to someone on the condition that they do (or don’t do) something – like, if you didn’t want one one of your kids to marry someone, you’d leave them their inheritance on the condition they didn’t marry that person.
They’re just not legally enforceable, though. Once you’ve left a gift to someone, it’s theirs to do whatever they want with it. You don’t get to choose what they spend their money on – normally. You do have the option of setting up a Trust, where you can set up an Executor or Trustee to withhold the money until they see fit. If you’re interested in exerting that power over people, click the big button below.
Your funeral is your last chance to throw a party, so some people like to get really hands-on with their own funerals.
That might be a specific dress code (no black is a popular one), it might be insisting on your favourite val-au-vents being served, or you might want to make your own playlist. You might just want to take the mick. I saw on Twitter a woman who’d had Ouija boards handed out to guests along with a note to ‘Keep in touch!’.
You can put your funeral wishes in your Will, but sometimes Wills aren’t read until after the funeral, so it’s probably not the best idea. Write them down on a separate piece of paper and let your nearest and dearest know instead.
Jointly Held Assets
Whether it’s a jointly held account or a joint tenant property, it’ll probably automatically go to the surviving joint owner when you die. It’s not technically yours to give.
Gifts to Pets
We’ve all seen the movies. An eccentric spinster dies and leaves her dog like, 200 million pounds. Distant, dog-hating relatives turn up like vultures conniving after the estate. The dog doesn’t like ’em, he’s only interested in tennis balls and long strings of sausages.
90 minutes of hilarity ensure until the unscrupulous relatives fall into a pond, rising from the water, defeated, while the frog sat on their head croaks with impressive comedic timing. They’ve been bested by the plucky, kind-hearted (but down on their luck) nurse the dog ran into when he was on his escapades, and then, for reasons that only make sense in a movie for 7 year olds, the nurse inherits the fortune and lives happily ever with the dog.
Wouldn’t happen in real life. In fact, the scummy relatives would probably get the money and the dog’d be on his way to the pound, ‘cos there’s no legal way to pass your assets on to an animal.
What you could do is leave a donation to an animal charity, or leave your pet to a specific person and gift them money for the care of it. But yeah, don’t try to leave anything directly to your pet.
Don’t be vague. Specify exactly what you mean. If you’re gifting your car, word it like ‘my car that I own outright at the time of my death‘. If you’ve got a cool collector’s car you could be more specific and leave the registration. If you just put ‘my car’ in the Will it could lead to a bit of confusion and the Will could potentially be contested down the line. The more specific you are the better.
That being said, when you’re talking about money, you should try to talk in percentages rather than lump sums. Probate can end up being a bit of a drain on your estate, so if you leave definitive amounts there’s the possibility you’ll leave more to people than you’ve actually got. If you leave percentages, they’ll be able to get an exact from what’s left.
Gifts to vulnerable (special needs) beneficiaries
That header makes me sound horrible, so let me explain. I’m not saying don’t leave anything to vulnerable beneficiaries. I’m not saying that at all. What I am saying is that leaving them lump sum monetary gifts in your Will might not be the best idea.
If you leave a lump sum of money to a vulnerable beneficiary, it might affect their benefit entitlement. You’re better off looking into a Disabled Person’s Trust. That way, they still get the money, but since it’s in a Trust and doesn’t form part of their assets, it doesn’t have an effect on their benefits. It’s the best of both worlds.
Anything you don’t own
Don’t be a Homer Simpson to Ned Flanders. It’s easy to have something and just think of it as yours, but you might not technically own it.
If you’ve got a car on finance, for example, you wouldn’t be able to gift that. It belongs to the finance company, not you. Just have a think about whether what you’re gifting it actually yours.
Right. We’re done! I hope you find this list useful – it should help you make sure your Will’s clearer, and in turn that’ll save your beneficiaries a headache when it comes to distributing your estate. Writing a Will’s important business. It’s your opportunity to make sure your family is protected once you’ve popped your clogs, so you need to make sure you get it right first time.
If you’re wanting to write a Will and you’re worried about what to put in it, just give us a shout. You can ring us on +44 (0)330 229 0331, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or arrange a call with us. We’ll go through your Will with you and make sure that you’ve done all you can to give your gifts to whoever you want to.