Check out our latest magazine... Read Online

The Ultimate Act of Love: Providing for Your Family's Future with a Will

Last Will and Testament

Making a will is one of the most important things you can do, regardless of your age or financial situation. Unfortunately, many of us put it off, whether it’s because of the morbid topic of our own mortality or because we just don’t know where to start.

“Recent research has shown that as many as three in five UK adults – that is 31 million people – have not made a will, and two-thirds of those are aged 65 or over,” says one local expert in the field.

 

However, an up-to-date will is really important. It gives you peace of mind that after you're gone, your final wishes will be respected and your loved ones will be provided for. Think of your will as a gift to your nearest and dearest, rather than something ominous, and take action.

 

Neither do you need to be wealthy to justify making a will. In fact, for most ordinary families, a will is essential to ensure your dependents are taken care of, your children's and grandchildren's futures are secure, and your remaining assets are distributed as you wish. Whether you want to pass on a little or a lot, a will allows you to specify your final arrangements clearly according to your priorities.

Last Will

Decide on your executors

Your executors are the people you appoint to carry out the instructions in your will after you die. They will manage your estate, pay any debts, and distribute your assets to your beneficiaries according to your wishes. It is best to choose between one to three executors. You want executors who are responsible, financially trustworthy, willing and able to serve, and likely to outlive you.

 

Executors have a heavy responsibility, so providing clear instructions in your will and talking to your executors about your wishes in advance can help set them up for success. Your executors should have copies of your will and other essential documents they will need to gain access to your assets like bank statements, details of mortgages and insurance policies, share certificates, and business interests.

Making a Will

Choose your beneficiaries

You can leave gifts of money, property, or possessions to anyone you like in your will – family, friends, charities, etc. Typically, your first priorities should be providing for your spouse/civil partner, children, and any other dependents. You may also want to leave gifts to grandchildren to help with education costs or getting on the property ladder.

 

You can specify exactly who gets what, but if there are items of high sentimental value consider talking to the relevant people during your lifetime about what they might appreciate receiving. Be very clear in identifying beneficiaries to avoid confusion or disputes. While you have no legal obligation to leave anything to non-dependent family members, even a small gesture can show you still care.

Beneficiaries

Plan your funeral wishes

None of us like to dwell on the practicalities of our own funeral. But specifying your wishes in advance, such as whether you want to be buried or cremated, any preferred funeral home, service details, music etc., relieves your loved ones of navigating these difficult decisions during a time of grieving. Your executors are also responsible for ensuring your funeral wishes as stated in the will are carried out properly.

 

Provide enough information so your family understand what you would have wanted. You may also wish to arrange and pay for parts of your funeral in advance through a pre-paid funeral plan. Let your executors and close family know you have made such arrangements to avoid confusion.

Funeral Wishes

Make financial provisions

Your will allows you to provide financial security for your loved ones even after you're gone. You can set up trusts for young children or grandchildren that provide income or payments at certain life milestones e.g. when they turn 18, finish university etc. You can also ensure your spouse will be able to stay in your shared home for the rest of their life, or direct that they receive a share of your income for a set period.

 

Think about the future financial needs and security of your dependents and consider ways your assets could support them. Be careful not to make provisions that overrule or complicate plans you have already put in place, like life insurance, pensions or other policies. Discuss major provisions with your executors and beneficiaries where possible to avoid confusion or conflict.

Grandparents and Grandchildren

Reduce inheritance tax

Inheritance Tax (IHT) is paid from your estate at 40% on anything above the tax-free allowance. There are several ways you can legally reduce the IHT due on your estate so more money goes to your loved ones. One option is to make charitable donations in your will. Another is to set up a trust for family members – however, there are rules on transferring ownership within a certain time period before death.

 

You can also gift portions of your estate to beneficiaries such as children or grandchildren during your lifetime to remove those assets from your estate. Take advice on the laws around gifts to avoid unintentionally triggering an IHT liability. Reviewing your financial and legal set-ups with a financial advisor can help identify tax-efficient ways to structure your estate with minimum liability.

Inheritance Tax

Keeping your will up to date

Writing a will is not a 'tick the box' exercise. To ensure it continues to reflect your current wishes and priorities, you should review and revise your will every few years, especially if there are major life events like:

 

  • Marriage – Getting married revokes any previous will, unless it was made in consideration of your impending marriage. 
  • Divorce – Getting divorced does not revoke a will; it can still benefit an ex-spouse.
  • Having children or grandchildren – The birth of children or grandchildren will likely impact your beneficiaries and the provisions you want to make for them.
  • Buying or selling property – The value and distribution of any property you own is an important part of your will. Make sure it is updated to account for any changes.
  • Retirement – Your pension arrangements, savings and the value of other assets may change when you retire, impacting your estate. Review your will to ensure your IHT planning strategies are still effective.
  • Bereavement – The loss of a loved one or beneficiary will necessitate revisions to your own will. Be sure to update executors, guardianships, trusts, and gifts.
  • Changes in tax laws – Wills also need to be kept up-to-date with current tax rates and legislation to avoid paying more IHT than necessary. Take advice from a financial expert.

 

By periodically revisiting and revising your will at least every 3-5 years, you avoid complications that could arise due to outdated information and changing circumstances. Keep notes of specific reasons why amendments are made each time you review in case questions arise later down the line. Make updating your will a priority to provide continuity of care for your dependents beyond your lifetime.


 

More from Downtime

  • What to Watch in June 2024

    Your guide to all the best new films coming this month, as well as all of the new and returning TV shows to look out for in June...

  • A Gourmet Escape on the Eurostar: London to Amsterdam with Culinary Delights in Almere

    Bill Murray samples the culinary delights of Amsterdam and the nearby resort town of Almere

  • If You Ask Me... Never Argue with an Idiot

    This month, Flo Whitaker recalls some words of advice from her father: “Don’t pick an argument with an idiot – you’ll never win. They’re a highly-experienced expert because they’ve been an idiot their entire life”

  • Kids Zone: Mosaic Art

    Get creative with this month’s fun and sustainable activity – mosaic art. Sara Whatley explains what to do

  • What to Watch in April 2024

    Our monthly guide to all the best film and television coming your way in April...

  • If You Ask Me: The Jobsworth and the Frog

    There is a malaise creeping through society whereby authorities and businesses use absurd interpretations of regulations as excuses not to provide services or assistance, writes Flo Whitaker

  • What to Watch in March 2024

    From science-fiction epics to supernatural horrors and family adventures, here's our guide to the best new films and TV shows arriving in March...

  • If You Ask Me... Politicians need a Translator

    With elections, resignations and government enquiries aplenty, 2024 is already proving to be a busy year. In these confusing times, Flo Whitaker offers her interpretation of the most frequently-occurring narratives and themes…

  • Dark Skies Festival 2024: Where & When to Gaze at the Stars

    Embrace the darkness with our guide to all the stargazing opportunities coming to Sussex over the next week…

  • Be Well, Move Happy: Walking & Silence

    In our new series on wellness and movement, Sara Whatley will be diving into two complementary health topics each month. She kicks off with silence and walking

  • Special Interest Holidays: Try Something Different

    A chance to take a break, relax and recharge is one of life’s great pleasures, this month Lisa de Silva looks at combining interests with time out

  • If You Ask Me... Who needs Television anyway?

    The first thing people say when they visit Flo Whitaker’s home is “Where’s the TV?” Unimpressed by television from an early age, Flo still reckons the radio has the best pictures

  • 5 Ways to Cultivate Mindfulness

    In the bustling world of 24/7 technology and constant demands on our time, mindfulness is more relevant and necessary than ever. For many, the daily hustle and bustle can become overwhelming. Mindfulness, the art of being present and fully engaged in the moment, offers a respite, enabling us to find calm amidst the chaos.

  • Love Local Community Campaign

    Sussex Living is proud to be launching a campaign to support our High Streets, bring prosperity to businesses and help grow a thriving community.Because if we don’t use them, we will lose them.

  • Summer Activity Ideas To Entertain You and the Kids

    Summer in Sussex offers long, sunny days perfect for making memories with the kids.

  • Summer School - Part 2

    In the second part of our series on summer holiday learning opportunities, Hanna Prince looks at how to keep kids engaged with practical, creative and hands-on activities. Learning needn’t end when the holidays begin. The focus on maths and literacy in schools means that children don’t always get the opportunity to explore other topics – and summer is the perfect time to give their natural interests free reign. Whether you’re nurturing a budding artist, a sports fanatic or the next Bear Grylls, here’s how to broaden their horizons and weave extra-curricular education into your summer routine.

  • Five of the best anti aging facial exercises

    Facial exercises are often utilized as an alternative to more invasive treatments for combating the appearance of aging. By strengthening and toning the muscles under the skin, facial exercises can promote a more youthful appearance. Here are five of the best anti-aging facial exercises:

  • Five Essential Fashion Classics For the Mature Woman

    Fashion is an ever-evolving art form, but some styles withstand the test of time, epitomizing timeless elegance and sophistication. For the mature woman, embracing classic fashion styles allows her to exude confidence, grace, and a refined sense of style. In this article, we explore five enduring fashion styles that perfectly complement the mature woman, helping her look and feel her best in any situation.

  • Get your children involved in litter picking this Summer holidays

    Be like the Wombles and become the worlds best litter pickers and recyclers, making good use of bad rubbish, says Sara Whatley

  • So you think you know Brighton’s history?

    Brighton is one of our favourite seaside destinations in Sussex and is renowned for its lively atmosphere, stunning architecture, and rich cultural heritage. With a history that spans centuries, Brighton has seen a myriad of transformations and historical milestones. Let's explore five fascinating historical facts about Brighton that showcase its unique past.