When making a will, it is important to plan what happens to your money and possessions, jointly known as your ‘estate’. This can include savings, investments, pensions, your business, property and valuable objects such as jewellery and heirlooms. You may also like to consider sentimental items, and who you would like to have those. Many people believe that if you die without a will, that your estate will automatically pass to your surviving spouse or ‘common law’ partner.
However, in reality, without the correct legal arrangements, your wealth can be in serious jeopardy. There’s the potential that if your husband or wife remarries, that your wealth could ultimately be passed to their new spouse and family, rather than your own children.
Those who have remarried also need to plan carefully, or their hard earned estate might only go to the children of your surviving spouse. It is important that any existing will is updated appropriately, so as not to render it worthless.
Discussing with family a carefully considered plan for passing future wealth down through the generations can be very beneficial both practically and emotionally. Succession planning is essential to help those involved be prepared for when the time comes.
There are some areas to consider:
Who can action your wishes and do they remain private?
Usually within a will, executors are appointed – these are the people who will ensure that your will is properly administered. Executors can be friends, family, or if you prefer, a professional, who can manage this process. A will is private whilst you are alive, but will automatically become a public document after your death. Once your will goes to probate, anyone can request to see it by paying a small fee. There are ways to avoid this, by using trusts for example, and a solicitor can discuss these options with you, in conjunction with your Wealth Planner.
What would happen to my children, how can they inherit my estate?
It is important to appoint a guardian for children under 19 in your will. This is particularly important for unmarried parents, where one parent may not necessarily have parental responsibility, particularly for those children born before 1 December 2003.
It is usual that children inherit when they reach 18 years old however they can receive it as young as 16 if they marry. However, you can include your wishes in your will to ensure your children, nieces, nephews or other minors inherit, at what you consider to be, the right time. Trusts can be utilised to plan the estate until they reach a certain age, or you could consider gifting the money in stages – for example, half when they are 25, half when they are 30 or even later.
You may also wish to consider charitable donations as part of a will.
How can WHIreland help?
We will work with your solicitor to ensure that your full estate and succession planning needs are met, consider whether your estate may be liable to Inheritance Tax, and will always give you clear, friendly and professional advice.