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What Exactly is a Will?

A Will is a formal document that provides for what you want to happen to your property (your estate) after your death. A Will can also be used to set out funeral instructions and to appoint a guardian to look after young children.

Should I Have a Will?

The answer is: you probably should

Maybe you have just not thought about it, or not quite got down to completing a Will - and, let's face it, it's an easy thing to put off. The bottom line is that having a properly drawn up Will - whatever age or stage you're at - ensures that you have complete peace of mind in knowing that your affairs are in order and that your future intentions will be properly met. The consequences of intestacy
(dying without a will) can be adverse, distressing and depending on the circumstances, pretty expensive.

What Could Happen if I Don't have a Will?

If someone dies without leaving a Will, their estate will not necessarily be inherited by their husband, wife or partner. The law will decide what and how much should go to each relative. Anyone who is not a relative has no right to inherit, though a cohabitant may be able to inherit some or all of the estate if they raise Court proceedings and are successful in meeting certain criteria. If someone dies without leaving a Will and there is no family, everything will go to the Government. Whoever inherits, a Court application will be needed to appoint an executor. As a condition of the appointment, the Court will require that an insurance policy is put in place to guard against wrongful actions by the executor. As the cost of the policy is based on the value of the estate, it can be expensive, and the need for this and a Court application will cause delay.

A Will is the best way of ensuring that those whom you want to inherit do inherit. It also means your estate is dealt with in the cheapest and most efficient way possible

If I Don't Have a Will - How Do I Get One in Place?

Contact Blair Cadell and speak to one of our Personal legal experts. You will be asked for some details and background information in order to assess your needs. A draft Will will be drawn up reflecting your requirements and objectives, followed by a principal document for signing. A face-to-face meeting is usually arranged although the process can sometimes be completed just by phone or e-mail.

How Much Will it Cost?

Blair Cadell's charges will vary according to the complexity of your requirements and objectives.

A straight forward Will providing only for the appointment and powers of executors, any legacies or bequests, and the destination of residue would cost in the region of £175 + VAT. If husband and wife, or partners are completing similar "mutual" Wills at the same time the cost for the second Will would be reduced by 50%

If advice and/or requirements are more involved (examples of the sorts of more complex things that might be arise are listed below) please ask for a quote from any of our Personal legal experts

Special Advice and/or Requirements - Examples:

* current and/or previous marital or partnership status
* legal rights of any spouses/partners and/or children
* tax planning or liabilities
* trust provisions
* property or assets owned abroad
* business assets
* guardianship of children

How Long Will it Take?

Depending on your requirements and provided your instructions are available on request, a Will should not take more than a few weeks to complete. If you have any particular needs (eg. if you are about to go on holiday) these can usually be accommodated

If I Have a Will But it Needs to be Updated or Reviewed How Much Will it Cost?

It is always prudent to review your testamentary provisions from time to time, particularly if there has been a change to your status or circumstances (eg. getting married or divorced, or having children). If a change to your current Will is required this could be done by either a Codicil or a replacement, updated Will. The method used and charges made will depend on the complexity involved. A straight forward Codicil would cost in the region of £95 plus VAT

What is a Will Form?

This is a pre-printed document , commonly prepared by a high street stationer or retailer, offering a quick form-fill method of completing a Will. Such documents/forms are not recommended for use as they will not necessarily reflect your intentions despite indications to the contrary, and indeed may not be validly enforceable.

What is Inheritance Tax?

Inheritance Tax is the government tax levied on the value of an estate as at date of death. The tax is paid by the executors of a deceased person out of the estate, at the rate prescribed from time to time by HMRC. The current "threshold" or value of estate over which Inheritance Tax is charged presently stands at £325,000. The rate of tax is 40%. There are a number of rules and exemptions (the principal exemption being between spouses and civil partners). A Blair Cadell Personal legal expert will be happy to advise more fully on this.

I Have Assets in Different Countries - Do I Need a Will in Each Jurisdiction?

A Will completed in Scotland will be effective in relation to all assets situated in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. While it can often be effective in relation to assets situated outside the UK, this is not always the case. It is therefore important that a lawyer from the local jurisdiction is consulted in all cases.

Is There a Connection Between a Will and a Power of Attorney?

A Will provides for the administration of your estate by your appointed executors after your death according to your wishes. A Power of Attorney provides for the administration of your affairs in the event of lifetime incapacity, disability or illness, or because you are unavailable (eg. absent abroad), by your appointed Attorney on your behalf. Attorneys and executors are not necessarily connected.

As a matter of prudent planning, it is recommended that you give some consideration to appointing a Power of Attorney at the same time as making a Will.

I am Interested in Completing a Living Will

A "Living Will" is sometimes known as an "advance medical directive" or "advance decision". It details the circumstances in which an individual does not wish to receive treatment if having become unable to communicate their wishes. Such a document has no testamentary effect - in other words it does not deal with the individual's property, and is intended to receive effect during the individual's life. The legal status and enforceability of "Living Wills" is not fully settled. Please ask one or our Personal legal experts for more information.

(image:mikebaird/FlickrCC)

Blair Cadell are a leading firm of Edinburgh solicitors, dealing in a wide range of property, business, tax and personal legal services.