Julie Walker, Legacy and In Memoriam Relationships Manager, shares information and guidance on Wills during national Make a Will month.
Author: Julie Walker, Legacy and In Memoriam Relationships Manager
Date: October 2023
Why do I need a Will?
Writing a Will (or Last Will and Testament) is really important, as it ensures that your wishes will be carried out after your death.Your Will is a legal document that allows you to decide what happens to your property, money, possessions and investments (known as your estate) when you die, and takes away some of the stress and legal expense from those left behind.
Quite simply, it’s the best way of looking after your family in the future and can give you great peace of mind.
Can I write my own Will or do I need a solicitor?You can write your own Will in the UK, but you should get professional advice if your Will is not straightforward. You will need to get it formally witnessed and signed to make it legally valid. You can find advice on the Government website. It can be a good idea to consult a solicitor as they will often think of scenarios and circumstances that haven’t occurred to you. They can also advise you about possible tax implications arising from your estate, ensuring that your loved ones are not liable for more Inheritance Tax than necessary.
If you have any questions about making a Will, Treetops holds Wills Clinics where you can book a free 30-minute appointment with a local solicitor.
What should my Will include?Some of the important things to think about including in your Will are:
- Who you would like to benefit from your Will
- Who you would like to look after any children aged under 18
- Who will be your executor. This is the person, or people, who will be responsible for sorting out your estate and carrying out your wishes after your death. This can be a friend or relative, or a solicitor.
- What should happen if the people you want to benefit from your Will die before you
- If you would like to leave a gift in your Will to a charity
When should I make a Will?Most people will make several Wills during their lifetime. You might make your first Will when something significant happens in your life, for example, when you buy a house, when you get married, or when you have children. As circumstances change you may need to make a new Will – perhaps to include grandchildren, for example, or to specify who should inherit particular items of property or keepsakes.
What happens if I don’t have a Will when I die?When someone dies without having a Will in the UK, this is known as being intestate. The law will decide who gets what. If you have not made your wishes known, your next of kin will need to apply to be an administrator of your estate. This can take some time and may be costly as well as stressful for loved ones who will be grieving.
How much does it cost to make a Will in the UK?Costs vary, depending how complicated your needs and wishes are. If your needs are more complex, perhaps involving setting up a Trust, then this will be more expensive.
We have a list of local solicitors who offer preferential rates to Treetops supporters for writing a simple Will. Some offer home visits or can give advice by phone.
Can you make a free Will? Is a free Will legal?
Online Wills have been around for many years. The company that Treetops works with is called 'Make a Will Online', which has been supporting charities in this way since 2008. Every Will is checked by a fully qualified solicitor who can also give support through phone calls and aftercare emails.
You can make a free Will online from the comfort of your own home. This is suitable for people with simple circumstances and wishes.
Some people still worry that a Will made online, rather than in the traditional way, might be open to challenge in the future. We can offer a free additional service that could give you extra peace of mind.
Any Treetops supporter making a free Will through Make a Will Online now also has free use of Capacity Vault – a service usually costing £150. This service enables you to use your mobile phone or computer to record yourself answering questions and confirming your wishes. This recording is then stored securely by Capacity Vault and can be produced in the future if it’s ever needed.
This may be especially important to anyone who is elderly, ill, concerned about family disputes, or who is leaving a substantial gift.
Where should I keep my Will? Should I tell people where to find my Will?
Your solicitor will keep a copy of your Will, and you will be given a copy to keep too. It is a good idea to keep all your important documents together in a secure place, such as a safe or fireproof box.
Knowing where to find all your important documents are kept helps someone manage your affairs for you after you have died.
You can also tell people which solicitor you have used to write your Will. If your Last Will and Testament cannot be found after your death, they can they write to the solicitor to obtain a copy, as it will be needed in order to apply for probate. If the solicitor has gone out of business, the Law Society may be able to help.
Can I leave money or property to charity in my Will?
Absolutely. This is a lovely way to leave a lasting legacy. Gifts may be pecuniary (a named amount) or residual (a percentage of your estate) or you can leave property in your Will. Remember that a pecuniary amount will lose its value over the years. A residual sum will continue to grow in line with inflation.
You will need the charity’s official name, registered charity number and registered office address. If you would like to leave a gift in your Will for Treetops, our charity details are: Charity name: Treetops Hospice Trust Registered Charity Number: 519540 Registered office: Treetops Hospice, Derby Road, Risley, Derbyshire, DE72 3SS
Do I have to tell people what’s in my Will?
It’s entirely up to you who you tell about what’s in your Will. Your Will is a private document. You might want to explain your decisions about who will inherit what, or to manage expectations in order to avoid misunderstandings or disappointment after your death.
What happens if I change my mind – how can I change my Will?
If you want to update your Will, you need to make an official alteration called a ‘codicil’ - or make a new Will.
How does a gift in a Will help Treetops Hospice?
Up to two in five of our patients are cared for thanks to gifts in Wills, so they are immensely important to us. Without the generosity of people remembering us in their Will, much of our work would not be possible.
Even a legacy of a small value makes a difference. Last year, all the legacies of up to £5,000 we received, altogether helped provide 249 nights of care for patients at the end of life, and support for their families. After looking after your family and loved ones, could you support Treetops in this way? This could be your own legacy to help support and care for the local community after your death.
Each gift is special and treasured in its own right, no matter the value. We offer a personalised gold leaf on our Memory Tree to mark each legacy we receive. ‘A gift today to give care tomorrow.’
Should I tell you if I leave Treetops something in my Will?
We’d love to know if you decide to leave Treetops Hospice a gift in your Will. Knowing about future gifts helps us plan for the future. Most of all, we would like to say thank you for your gift. But we would also want to keep you updated about our services, and from time to time we’ll invite you to special events. When we’re notified of someone’s gift only after they’ve died, it’s too late to thank them. So please tell us now, and we will send you a special lapel pin along with our thanks.
What is an Advance Decision or Living Will?
You may wish to outline your wishes for refusing medical treatment if you become terminally ill, or if you lose the ability to make decisions for yourself. This legal document is known as an 'advance decision' - formerly called a 'living will'. An advance decision is legally-binding but will be implemented only if you lose capacity or cannot communicate your wishes in person. It does not give someone else power to make other medical decisions on your behalf - for that, you'll need to put in place a Lasting Power of Attorney.
What’s a Lasting Power of Attorney?
A Lasting Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone to act on your behalf should you be unable to make decisions yourself. You can set up a Power of Attorney only while you still have the ability to understand information and make decisions for yourself, known as 'mental capacity' - so it's worth putting one in place early on. It’s advisable to make two LPAs – one for your financial matters, and the other for health issues.