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Wills & Inheritance Tax

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Your will lets you decide what happens to your money, property and possessions after your death

If you make a will you can also make sure you don’t pay more Inheritance Tax than you need to. You can write your will yourself, but you should get advice if your will isn’t straightforward.
You need to get your will formally witnessed and signed to make it legally valid.

If you want to update your will, you need to make an official alteration (called a ‘codicil’) or make a new will.

Make sure your will is legal

For your will to be legally valid, you must:

  • be 18 or over
  • make it voluntarily
  • be of sound mind
  • make it in writing
  • sign it in the presence of 2 witnesses who are both over 18
  • have it signed by your 2 witnesses, in your presence

If you make any changes to your will you must follow the same signing and witnessing process.

Update your will

You should review your will every 5 years and after any major change in your life, for example:

  • getting separated or divorced
  • getting married (this cancels any will you made before)
  • having a child
  • moving house
  • if the executor named in the will dies

Making changes to your will

You cannot amend your will after it’s been signed and witnessed.
The only way you can change a will is by making an official alteration called a codicil. You must sign a codicil and get it witnessed in the same way as witnessing a will.

Contact us to discuss creating or altering your will

Below we take a closer look at why it’s important to make a will.
This information can also be found in our downloadable guides for wills.

Do you have a will?

It’s important to put plans in place for the future and it’s surprising to learn that two-thirds of people in England and Wales haven’t got a Will. Most adults have some form of an estate; you may have a house or flat, shares, savings, investments, businesses and personal belongings. All of these assets make up your estate and making a Will means that when you die your estate is shared according to your wishes.

Making a Will can ensure:

  • Each family member receives their designated share of the estate.
  • Guardians are appointed.
  • Estate passes to spouses in a tax-efficient way.
  • People dealing with the estate are those trusted.
  • Any charitable donations can be made.
  • Individual gifts can be given to those who will treasure them.
  • Children from previous relationships are not by-passed.
  • Avoidance of ‘sideways disinheritance’.

What options do I have?

Singular Will

Suitable for an individual making a Will, this type includes:

  • The appointment of executors.
  • Noting any gifts.
  • Nominating a beneficiary who will receive the remainder of the estate after all other beneficiaries have received their inheritance and all debts have been paid (residual beneficiary).

Mirror Will

A Mirror Will produces two Wills which are nearly identical and which both leave assets to the same beneficiaries. The most common example would be a couple who leave everything to the survivor of them, and then to their children.

What details do I need to provide?

As part of the process and to determine a quote, you will be asked the following questions:

  1. Do you own shares in a business?
  2. Do you own property abroad?
  3. Have you ever been divorced?
  4. Do you have children with more than one partner?

These questions are asked to determine the Level of the Will required for your set of circumstances.

1All questions answered NO
2Up to 3 of the questions answered YES, the rest answered NO
3All questions answered YES
4Should the Will become more complicated than originally anticipated, a Level 4 Will may be required. This will be determined by the consultation between Solicitor and Client.

What is the process?

Your property professional can get you a free quote by asking you the questions listed on the front page.

Once your supplier of choice has been confirmed, they’ll arrange a telephone call with you to discuss the information they need from you as part of the fact-find document. A draft Will is prepared and is sent to you for verification and approval.

What are my storage options?

Your supplier of choice can store your Will for you, should you wish. However please note this may be at a small additional fee.


Can I revoke or cancel my Will?

A Will is cancelled or revoked by any of the following:

  • You destroy it deliberately.
  • A new Will is made.
  • Marriage generally nullifies a Will.
How can I amend my Will?

With your original supplier or by drawing up a new Will.

What is a ‘residue’?

Residue is the money left after debts and accounts are settled.

What if your property is held as tenants in common?

If you’re Joint Tenant, then the property passes to the joint owner. If you are Tenants in Common, your share passes to immediate family or as designated by Will.

Can I leave gifts to people without a will?

No, you need a Will to leave gifts to friends or charity.

Who can be my Executors?

Anyone mentally capable over 18 years old. Usually a family member or trusted friend. It is best to appoint a trusted person who you feel could do the job. Best to speak to them first; you should have a minimum of one and a maximum of four.

What is an Executor?

A person named in the Will appointed to carry out your wishes.

Do I need to appoint Guardians?

If you have children under the age of 18, you should appoint a Guardian. You can only do this in a Will.

What is a Guardian?

A nominated individual in the Will who will look after children under 18 years old.

What happens if you die without a Will?

What is Intestacy?

If a person dies without a Will, then there are default rules which determine who inherits. The deceased is described as ‘intestate’ which may be either partially or wholly intestate.

Wholly intestacy – is where there is no Will or the Will has been revoked or is invalid for some reason e.g. because of marriage, lack of capacity or failure to sign properly.

Partially intestate – is where the Will fails to deal with the whole estate and assets pass outside of the Will according to intestacy rules. This could be because a beneficiary has died before the deceased and no reserve beneficiary or that a beneficiary has witnessed the Will, invalidating their legacy.

Some reports indicate that as much as 60% of the population do not have a Will. Among those aged 65 and some reports state the figure is approximately 25%. Lots of people fail to make a Will on grounds of expense or because they do not understand the ramifications of not having one. They simply expect everything to transfer to their loved ones.

A person who dies without leaving a Will has died intestate; what happens to their estate depends on the set of circumstances.

The order of inheritance is:

  1. Spouse/Civil Partner
  2. Children, Grandchildren, greatgrandchildren and so on (called ‘issue’)
  3. Parents
  4. Brothers and Sisters or their issue
  5. Half-brothers and sisters or their issue
  6. Grandparents
  7. Aunts and Uncles or their issue
  8. Half-aunts/uncles or their issue

The question of who takes what depends on the date of death and the size of the estate and which relatives are alive at the time of death. This may mean that those you want to benefit from your estate will not. If you are in a same sex relationship, unmarried or have step-children (that you consider the same as your natural children), all may lose out because you have not put a Will in place. The rules of intestacy generally do not suit most people.

Some potential pitfalls

Tax – If your residual estate is more than £250,000, half of the remainder would be distributed to children. This could mean that your spouse is left with an adverse tax position or that your children inherit assets they are not prepared for. In this instance, they may need to sell assets to pay a tax they were not expecting.


Jane and James have two children. They own their £1.2 million property as tenants in common. James has other assets of £600,000, mainly made up of two rental properties. He dies without a Will. The position is as follows:

  • James’ estate is half the property and £600,000. Meaning an estate of £1.2 million.
  • Jane receives £725,000.
  • The children receive £475,000.

James’ Nil Rate Band is £325,000 and has the transferable element of his Residential Nil Rate Band (currently at £100,000 to raise by a further £25,000 each year until April). If they use his bands on the inheritance to his children there would still be £50,000 of taxable estate, which equates to a £20,000 inheritance tax bill. This could be avoided by doing a Will.

Broken Families

The modern British family is completely different to 50 years ago. It is much more likely these days that parents have divorced, had children from previous relationships etc. The concept of 2.4 children has long gone and there is a variety of family units. Intestacy does not cater for them all.

Someone may die intestate, without a spouse, children or parents. However, they have a full-blood sibling and two half-siblings. Even though they are closer with their half-siblings and consider them the same as their fullblood sibling, intestacy dictates that only the full-blood sibling would inherit. The rules could mean children completely lose out, otherwise known as sideways disinheritance.


James has divorced and then remarried. He has children from his previous relationship. He has a modest estate of £200,000. This all passes to his new spouse, whom has children of her own. She then passes away without a Will and the estate passes to her children in its entirety. James’ children would lose out completely, despite all parties intentions.

Same-Sex Couples

Many same-sex couples are unmarried and cohabiting. If one of the couple dies, then the nearest blood relative inherits everything and not the intended partner, despite the intentions. It is imperative that they get a Will in place to ensure that the right people inherit.

For more information on what happens in differing situations, please speak with an Estate Planner. A solicitor can draft a Will, to give you complete peace of mind. Please speak with your Financial Adviser for further information.

Contact Turney & Associates to discuss creating or altering your will See our downloadable guides to wills

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