What You Should Never Put in Your Will in the UK: Things Not To Put in Your Will

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Your will in the UK

Writing a precise and legally valid will is among the most significant things you will do during your lifetime.

Why? Well, without a valid will, everything you have worked hard for, such as building your estate, creating your asset portfolio, etc., won’t be passed down to your next of kin as optimally as you would think.

By writing a will, you’ll contribute towards the financial well-being of your beneficiaries, one of which is that your beneficiaries will not have to contend with a large inheritance tax bill, among other things.

In light of this, let’s take a comprehensive dive into what you should never put in your will in the UK, some common mistakes to avoid, and how to make a valid will. 

Will Writing

Importance of having a well-drafted will

Estate planning is an imperative element in streamlining your assets and the wealth you have built throughout your lifetime. Developing a thorough, sound, and authentic will is a major part of securing your estate for your future generation.

In addition, a transparently written will offer a high degree of certainty and plausibility in terms of how you want your estate to be distributed to the designated beneficiaries, ensuring that your representative follows your exact specifications.

Common mistakes to avoid in Will writing

Now that we have established the importance of a will, it is equally vital to talk about some UK will writing mistakes that are pretty common and must be avoided at all times.

Only Planning What Will Happen After Your Pass Away

While the entire point of creating a will is to make asset distribution easier amongst your beneficiaries, a will cannot be complete if you don’t comprehensively address the issue of guaranteeing how that distribution is going to happen.

The best way to do that, as a complementary element to your will, is to clearly mention all the legally binding directives that your caregiver will be duty-bound to follow upon your death.

This can also include important decisions to be made if you fear your health will worsen later on or if you’re suffering from a health condition that may incapacitate your ability to make sound decisions.

Neglecting Your Heirs or Beneficiaries

While a will is amongst the most effective tools to distribute your estate and assets, there are other strategies that you can also use to designate your heirs as prime beneficiaries.

For example, you can name your heirs as the owners of your financial accounts or insurance after you pass away.

However, understand that if you have written that your significant other or spouse will possess your estate after you pass away while designating your children as the sole beneficiaries of your accounts, the will may not amount to anything.

8 Things Not To Put In Your Will

1.   Funeral Instructions

While it can make sense to mention your last rites in your will, understand that the human body does not come into the category of your estate and assets. This means that if you wish to be cremated, the caregiver does not need to comply with that wish.

In addition, funeral arrangements are always made and executed before the will is implemented. So, it is recommended that you make a side of your funeral requests and designate it to your close family members.

2.   Conditional Gifts

When it comes to what to include in a will, conditional gifts are certainly among the things you shouldn’t mention. As they cannot be legally enforceable, conditional gifts are deemed illegal requests. For example, if you wish to bequeath your car to your son as a graduation gift, that can’t happen.

3.   Jointly Owned Property

If you jointly own property or accounts with your partner or spouse then the right survivorship will apply upon your passing.

This means that the jointly owned account or property will automatically be transferred in the name of your spouse or partner. There is no use in mentioning any jointly-held assets or accounts in your will.

4.   Accounts with Named Beneficiaries

If you already have a named beneficiary for your bank account or insurance policy, it won’t matter whether you include them in your will. They are legally and fully entitled to get the account upon your passing. This process is known as Payable-On-Death (POD).

5.   Illegal or Unethical Requests

Illegal or morally questionable requests made in a will, or writing instructions that are against the law, will not be entertained. In some cases, this may adversely impact your testamentary desires.

6.   Personal Sentiments and Comments

When writing a valid will, refrain from mentioning personal statements or wishes. A will is a legal document that only deals with the distribution of your estate. Any unrelated matters will not be entertained. In addition to that, a will is also a public document and will be read as such.

7.   Digital Assets Without Clear Instructions

As we live in the digital age, you likely have digital account credentials to your bank and/or social media, among other things. Upon your passing, these will also be subject to distribution.

It is important to adequately bequeath your social media credentials to a trusted beneficiary, otherwise the contents of the account may be misused and misrepresented.

8.   Business Interests Without a Succession Plan

If you run a business, you will likely bequeath it to your next of kin or a chosen successor upon your passing.

However, not having a succession plan, the leadership of your business may fall into disarray. Therefore, you must have an adequate succession plan in your will to ensure your beneficiary inherits a running and profitable business.

Legal and Practical Considerations

Let’s now discuss some will preparation tips with legal and practical considerations.

Ensuring Your Will is Valid

One of the core foundations of writing a will is ensuring its legal validity. In the UK, for a will to be authentic, the following are some important stipulations:

  • The testator must be 18 or above.
  • The will should be written voluntarily and without undue pressure.
  • The testator must be in a sound state of mind and not mentally incapacitated.
  • The will must be in writing.
  • Two witnesses are required to observe the written will and must include their signatures on the document. The witnesses must also be over the age of 18.
  • The witnesses must sign the will in the presence of the testator.

Consulting a Professional

One of the best advantages of consulting an experienced and qualified will solicitor to create a will is that these professionals know all the legal nuances that go into creating a valid will.

Your solicitor will know what to put in a will, help you navigate the complexities involved in the probate process, and provide you with viable and actionable strategies to create a will that resonates with your wishes and is in line with your specifications.

Similarly, a solicitor will also know the common will errors and mistakes many people make, leading you to create something that is both thorough and has a strong legal standing. At Lawyersorted, we have a broad category of experienced and highly knowledgeable UK-based solicitors that can help you create a legitimate and legally-binding will.

Alternatives to Including Certain Items in Your Will

Letter of Wishes

A Letter of Wishers is a complementary yet official document that you can add as a supplementary attachment with your will. In it, you can express your wishes to have your estate disbursed to the beneficiaries however you want.

In the letter, you can also instruct your personal representative or executor, or trustee on how they should distribute assets and to act in line with your specifications.

Trusts

One of the best ways to steer clear of the probate process and distribute assets to your beneficiaries upon your passing is to create a trust. A powerful alternative to a will, a living and irrevocable trust can be operated even in the event of the testator’s death.

When you establish a trust, the assets you mean to distribute to your heirs are held and supervised by a designated trustee. It is important to know that assets in a trust will not be owned by you but will be disbursed by the trustee in line with your wishes.

But it is also worth mentioning that you can only transfer those assets to a trust that you wish to bequeath your heirs. Plus, during your lifetime, you will have the authority and control to revoke the trust any time you wish.

In light of this, mentioned below is a list of irrevocable trust in the UK that you can use as an alternative to a will:

  • Bare trusts
  • Discretionary trusts
  • Charitable trusts
  • Revocable and irrevocable trusts
  • Testamentary trusts

FAQs on What Not to Include in Your Will

H3:  What makes a will invalid in the UK?

Among other factors, two of the main elements that can make a will invalid in the UK are if the will was not made voluntarily or in sound mind and if the will is not signed properly.

What are the biggest mistakes people make with their will?

Some of the most common mistakes people make when creating a will include not having the proper witnesses, not having the will signed, failing to mention the names of the beneficiaries, forgetting assets, not mentioning step-children as beneficiaries (if any), not mentioning the name of the executor of your will, among others.

What to include in a will in the UK?

When creating a will in the UK, along with ascertaining its validity, you need to properly mention the details of your assets, such as your vehicles, estate and property, bank, investment, pension accounts, savings, and digital assets. 

Why should funeral instructions not be included in a will?

When it comes to what you should never put in your will in the UK, funeral instructions are at the top of the list. This is because your body will not be considered as part of your estate. Plus, funeral arrangements are made before the will is executed.

How should jointly owned property be handled?

If the testator and their spouse or partner own a joint property, upon the passing of the testator the ownership and control of the property will automatically be transferred to their partner or spouse as per survivorship laws in the UK.

What are the best practices for managing digital assets in a will?

In the case of owning digital assets, you must first ensure that you comply with laws governing your digital assets both locally and regionally as these laws are subject to continuous changes. In terms of mentioning your digital assets in a will, it is a good idea to appoint an experienced digital executor who will manage your assets in line with your wishes upon your death.

What are the benefits of using a letter of wishes or trusts

One of the primary benefits of using a Letter of Wishes is that the testator can include their personal wishes and specific instructions on how they want their executor or trustee to handle their assets and/or personal possessions upon their passing.

On the other hand, creating a trust can provide the testator with better control over the assets they wish to bequeath to their beneficiaries along with steering clear of a potential tax rebate.

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