Wills and Legacies
How to find trustworthy advice on how to make a will, how to ensure it is legal, and also how to update it.
Last updated August 2015
Where there’s a will…
Death and money are two subjects that most people aren’t comfortable talking about. So it’s no real surprise that an estimated 52% of the 50 million adults living in the UK have not made a will (Willaid 2014).
The same survey found that, despite the many ways in which our lives change, once people had made a will they rarely thought about going back to revise it!
And yet, wills are incredibly important legal documents – they let you decide who will look after your estate when you die and also who will benefit from your estate and who will not.
You may wish to leave a specific gift (such as a painting) or a pecuniary gift (such as cash).
You are also able to decide who should benefit from the rest of your estate. Making these decisions in your will can make the task of sorting things after your death much easier for your family and friends. This is especially true if family relationships have been difficult – and also if a number of people believe that you definitely promised them that special ornament!
If you would prefer to speak to someone about wills then your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau can be an excellent starting point.
Keep supporting causes that matter to you
Preparing a will also gives you an opportunity to consider supporting a particular cause or charity following your death. This may be a cause that has always been close to your heart. Or it may be an organisation that has been able to offer you much-needed support.
A pecuniary gift is one of a specific sum of money.
If it is residuary, then you would give a set percentage of the residue of your estate after all specific gifts and requests have been made.
In both cases, it is very important that the wording of your legacy is accurate and legally correct.
Power of attorney?
At some point in your life it might become necessary for someone to act on your behalf or make decisions for you. This might be on a temporary basis if, for example, you are in hospital.
Or it might be on a more permanent basis – for example if you have recently been diagnosed with dementia and recognise that you need to plan longer-term.
It is possible to organise both of these arrangements through a legal device known as ‘power of attorney’. And there are two types of power of attorney: ordinary and lasting.
Ordinary power of attorney is applicable when you still have the ability to make decisions by yourself but need someone to manage your financial affairs – for example if you are leaving the country for a lengthy holiday.
In contrast, a lasting power of attorney is a way of giving someone you trust the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf in the future. For example, you may feel you will lack the ability to make your own decisions at some time in the future, or no longer wish to make decisions for yourself.
There are two types of lasting power of attorney. One relates to property and financial affairs and another relates to personal welfare.
When someone decides to establish a lasting power of attorney it is an extremely important decision. For this reason, a lasting power of attorney is only valid if the person setting it up is mentally capable. They must also make the decision on the basis of their own free will. The lasting power of attorney must also be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian.
You can make a lasting power of attorney by filling in the relevant forms available from the Office of the Public Guardian. These can be downloaded from their website, or you can request paper copies (Tel 0300 456 0300). Furthermore, the Office of the Public Guardian can provide you with a list of organisations who can help you fill in the forms correctly. You could also employ a solicitor to fill in your forms on your behalf.