No, I don’t mean you need to polish your glasses before you sit down to think about getting your will written. But the handy mnemonic CLEAR SPECS will give you some things to think about when you’re thinking about getting your will written.
C Are you planning to have more CHILDREN? If your will stipulates “everything to be split equally between my children Alice and Baz” but by the time you die little Charlie has arrived, he won’t get anything. For young families, the will is usually worded along the lines of “my assets are to be split between any children alive at the time of my death”, to allow for any further additions to the family so don’t be surprised if your will-writer asks if you’re planning on extending your family!
L LEGAL RESPONSIBILITY. If you die before your children reach 18, your child’s parent with LEGAL RESPONSIBILITY will automatically be appointed guardian. If you don’t want this to happen ie because they’re absent/irresponsible, you’ll need to discuss this with your will-writer so they can add a letter of wishes to this effect with your will. It’s also worth ensuring any guardians you name also have their wills written
E EXECUTORS are the people responsible for carrying out your wishes in the will. There can be quite a bit of work involved so make sure you pick someone up to the task! Ideally someone who’s younger than you so they’re likely to be alive after you 😬 If your will is contentious it may be worth picking someone neutral. You may want to leave them a gift in the will as a thank you too!
A AUTOMATICALLY – Unless you state to the contrary, your children will AUTOMATICALLY inherit at 18. As the parent of an 18 year old myself I would suggest giving a teenager access to a large sum of money may not be wise, unless you’re happy for your hard-earned money to be spent on an endless supply of Dominoes pizza, computer games, and possibly something even more dodgy they can access online!!
R REVOKED – A will is automatically REVOKED if someone marries, so if you’re engaged/planning to get married, make sure the will is written “in contemplation of marriage” otherwise you’ll have to get a new one written once you’re married!
S SUM Do you want to leave gifts as a lump SUM or a percentage? Gifts in a will are paid out first after fees/funeral expenses. So if you have £100k in the bank and you’ve stated your dear friend Jackie gets £20,000 and anything else is to be split between your children, but by the time you die you’ve only got £20k left, Jackie will still get her gift but children won’t get anything.
P PROTECTION – A basic mirror will is an expression of wishes- there’s no ringfenced PROTECTION of assets. So you may wish your spouse to inherit everything when you die, and then your children when he/she dies. But after you die if your spouse rewrites their will or remarries, they can accidentally or deliberately give away your assets to someone else, meaning your children could end up missing out on their inheritance. Having a trust-based will ensures your wishes are protected and assets will go where you want them to.
E EXCLUSION; There’s certain groups of people who can legally challenge a will; spouses, ex-spouses, children or anyone financially dependent on you. So if you don’t wish to leave anything to someone you’re separated, divorced or estranged from, be it partner or your child(ren), or from someone you’re currently or have recently financially maintained, you’ll need an EXCLUSION clause in your will to reduce the chances of them being able to successfully challenge your will.
C CHECK your will is witnessed and signed by two people when you sign it, as the will is not valid otherwise. It’s also important to note that witnesses can’t be the same people as you’ve named as beneficiaries. If they are this will cause any gift you’ve let them, and possibly the whole will, to fail.
S STORAGE – Are you storing your will yourself? Make sure it’s kept somewhere safe- away from risk of damp, theft and fire. It’s worth paying to have it stored. You’d be surprised how often clients say they’ve written one in the past but have moved etc and now can’t find it. It’s usually only a nominal fee each year to store it and often you’re then allowed to make free annual amendments to the will ie to update guardians, executors or beneficiaries.
Hopefully this has helped bring things into focus for you. If you need any further help getting your will written clearly, don’t fumble around in the dark any longer, get in touch – I feature in The Hug Directory – Sarah McGuire – Estate Planning Solutions