Frequent Questions

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What happens if any of my beneficiaries die before me?

With all gifts it is worthwhile considering what you would like to happen if the gift fails, normally because your beneficiary dies before you.The basic rule is to make sure that your property does end up going somewhere. If it doesn’t you could be “partially intestate.” which will cause further expense and possibly unintended consequences. A clearly drafted Will reduces the frequency with which you will have to change your Will, although sometimes changes in your circumstances or changes in the law will mean you have to get your Will changed.Often there is a Long Stop beneficiary – normally a charity – who will only inherit if all those named as your residuary beneficiaries fail to survive you. This is called a “calamity clause” for obvious reasons!

Who should I choose as executors?

It is normal practice to have at least two people acting as your executors. It is best if they are peers in terms of age or younger, making it more likely they will outlive you. You do not need to appoint professionals, such as a solicitor, to act as an executor or trustee of your estate unless there is the likelihood of a trust arising. In many cases it may be sufficient to appoint your spouse, partner, a member of your family, a prime beneficiary or close friends to act.If you do not appoint a solicitor or other probate professional it is quite possible that your executors will go to them for help with some or all of the estate administration if they are not able to do it themselves when the time comes.An executor can also be a beneficiary. If you appoint a friend to act as an executor it is worth considering leaving them a gift as a thank you for what can be quite an onerous job.

How does inheritance tax work?

Your executors may have to pay inheritance tax from your estate when you die if the value of your estate (or in some cases the value of your estate plus any gifts in the last seven years) exceeds a certain figure called the Nil Rate Band (currently £325k). Any value over that amount is taxed at 40%. Some of it can be paid in ten yearly instalments.Anything passing to a spouse or civil partner will pass without any charge to inheritance tax. On the death of the second spouse the estate can claim any unused portion of the Nil Rate Band of the first spouse. This means up to £650k could be charged at a Nil Rate.If you are not married or in a civil partnership you will NOT enjoy the “spouse exemption” from inheritance tax however long you have been co-habiting and any gifts to your partner over the Nil Rate Band are chargeable at 40%.

Tax is a long and grueling topic which some people apparently enjoy. A Will may prompt you to make your estate more efficient bearing in mind the rules of inheritance tax which are likely to apply on your death and should always be considered.

Can I appoint guardians for my children?

Yes. You can appoint someone to have parental responsibility for any child of yours under 18. This generally takes effect on the death of the last person with parental responsibility. If you are divorced or living apart from a co-parent its good to agree on who would be the guardians if both of you were to die.”

Can I stop particular people from receiving anything?

You may need to know about the effect of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. This allows people who are dependant on you and some family members to make a claim against your estate if they don’t feel they are adequately provided for, and in some cases they may be successful. Subject to that, the general principle is that, providing the Will is clearly expressed, a testator can give to whom they wish.