Making a Will
You probably know that when making a will there are important decisions to make about who your executor should be and who to leave your assets to. Don’t forget to consider the less obvious things, including pets, pensions and personal belongings!
Your pet is a much loved member of your family. Have you thought about what would happen to your pet in the event of your death? Do you know who you would want to take care of your pet? If so, the best way to ensure this happens is to leave a direction in your will. Make sure you discuss it with the person first so you know they’re happy to give your pet a home.
You might also want to leave that person some money for any costs of taking on your pet. Your solicitor can help you work out what an appropriate amount would be.
If there isn’t an individual person who would take on your pet, you might instead specify a specific animal rehoming charity, such as the Scottish SPCA, that you would trust. Again, you can direct this when making a will and your executor can then ensure your wishes are followed.
If you have a private pension — perhaps a workplace pension or a personal pension you’ve set up — there may be benefits you can pass on in the event of your death. This could be an entitlement to a monthly pension, or it could be a lump sum pay-out. Either way, it’s important to consider who should receive the benefits.
Each pension differs slightly and you should consult your pension provider or a financial adviser to find out exactly what death benefits come with your pension. Your pension might also have rules about who can inherit, so check that too.
Pension benefits normally don’t form part of your estate when you die: they usually pay straight to the beneficiaries. This means wills do not usually have legacies of a pension in them. Instead, it should be possible to nominate beneficiaries directly to your pension provider. This is usually the most tax efficient option: your pension does not come into your estate and therefore shouldn’t have any inheritance tax to pay on it.
Nominating beneficiaries on your pension can be straightforward, and can often be done online with your pension provider. It may also be possible to give the pension trustees more detailed information about how you’d like them to divide up the pension benefits among different beneficiaries. This would be done with an “expression of wishes” to accompany your pension nominations.
Your solicitor can discuss your intentions regarding your pension with you and can give you advice about how you might complete your nominations and expression of wishes. While this doesn’t have to be done when you’re making a will, it’s good to deal with it while these issues are fresh in your mind.
It’s also important to keep your pension nominations up to date and review them regularly.
3. Personal Belongings
Personal items which carry some sentimental value to your family are often the most important items to divide fairly. This might be family heirlooms, trinkets or photographs. Dividing up sentimental items can, unfortunately, cause arguments among family members if you haven’t given clear direction.
Even if you don’t have belongings of particular value, it is important to think about who you’d like to receive your personal belongings. You can leave a formal legacy of your personal effects when making a will. Alternatively, you could leave a less formal “letter of wishes.” This gives your executors directions about how you would like your belongings to be divided, without binding them to a formal legacy. A letter of wishes can be updated very easily without needing to change your will.
Contact Us About Making a Will
At Gibson Kerr, our Personal Law Solicitors in Edinburgh and Glasgow will talk you through each of these points when we have a will meeting with you. If you would like to arrange a meeting, or have any questions about the process, please do not hesitate to contact us. We offer fixed fees for wills and powers of attorney.