Kathryn Sykes, an Associate and Head of Department at Pickup & Scott Solicitors, answers some of the most frequently asked questions about wills and trusts.
> Do I need to make a will?
> How do I go about making or updating my will?
> Is making a will or changing a will expensive?
> What is the difference between a will and a trust and do I need both?
> How should I go about setting up a trust?
> Why are gifts in wills so important to The National Autistic Society?
> Who benefits from gifts left to NAS in wills?
> What type of gift can I make?
> If I leave a gift to the NAS in my will, can I specify how the money is used?
> Is it worth leaving money to the NAS if it's not that much?
> Would the NAS like to know if I have left a gift in my will to them?
> Can you suggest standard wording for including a gift to the NAS in my will?
> Who should write my will?
> Can I do anything before seeing a solicitor to make my will?
> How often should I review my will?
> Can a gift to a charity help me pay less tax?
> Can the NAS be my executor?
> Can I give a donation to the NAS in memory of a friend or loved one?
- Do I need to make a will?
My personal opinion is yes, everyone should have a will. However, there are some circumstances where it is even more important to have a will, such as if you have young children, are not married to your partner, are in the process of going through a divorce or wish to benefit people who are vulnerable.
By writing a will you can ensure that your estate passes to the people or charities that are important to you, you can choose the right people to care for your children if something happens to you as well as sensible people to look after the money for them.
- How do I go about making or updating my will?
There is no requirement to have any legal qualifications or knowledge to be able to write a will, for example you can buy kits to make them at home. Unfortunately, if the will is not properly written (and this is often not found out until after your death) it can cause enormous problems. I would always recommend taking advice from a qualified legal adviser. They can walk you through the process, step-by step. View a list of specialist legal advisers here.
- Is making a will or changing a will expensive?
Most qualified legal advisers offer fixed rates for preparing or updating a will so that you know exactly where you stand from the outset and they try to keep the costs as affordable as possible. The piece of mind a professionally written will can provide for you and your loved one is invaluable.
- What is the difference between a will and a trust and do I need both?
A will is a document that directs how your affairs and assets should be dealt with on your death and only comes into force at the time.
A trust is a legal arrangement that allows a person or organisation to look after someone else’s money.
A trust can be included in a will, where it comes into effect on your death or, during your lifetime, by a separate document called a Deed. It will depend on your personal circumstances as to which would be most appropriate.
- How should I go about setting up a trust?
Setting up a trust requires detailed knowledge of different trust laws and taxation rules. It is best to speak to a qualified legal adviser, so that the trust can be tailored to your personal circumstances. You can find a qualified legal professional by either contacting The Society for Trust and Estate Practitioners, The Law Society or one of the specialist legal advisers listed here.
- Why are gifts in wills so important to The National Autistic Society?
Gifts in wills can go towards any part of the NAS's work: making a long-term difference to people with autism by providing information, advice and support services; running befriending schemes; funding awareness-raising campaigns; and many other crucial projects. As the NAS grows and changes in the years ahead it needs funds to support its ambitious projects, all of which aim to improve the lives of people with autism and their families.
- What type of gift can I make?
A gift in a will is commonly called a legacy, there are various types:
Specific – this is a gift of a particular item, such as a painting or a piece of jewellery.
Pecuniary – this is a gift of a specified sum of money.
Residuary – this is a gift of whatever you have left after paying all your debts and funeral costs and making any specific or pecuniary legacies.
The residuary legacy can be divided between as many individuals or organisations as you wish, in varying proportions and can also be put into an appropriate trust to protect any vulnerable beneficiaries.
- If I leave a gift to the NAS in my will, can I specify how the money is used?
Hopefully, it will be a long time between writing your will and the NAS receiving any legacy. The NAS would rather you didn’t specify a project or area of work that you would like your gift to benefit. This is because the services they provide may have to change and develop to meet the needs of people with autism. However, if you have particular wishes you can contact Georgina on either the telephone at 0207 903 3580 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss them further.
- Is it worth leaving money to the NAS if it's not that much?
Yes definitely. The NAS provides enormously valuable services to thousands of people affected by autism. Any gift you choose to give to The National Autistic Society will always be gratefully received and will enable them to help more families living with autism.
- Would the NAS like to know if I have left a gift in my will to them?
The NAS would be delighted to know this and to have an opportunity to thank you, but understands that your will and its contents are a personal and sensitive matter and that you may not wish to share this information.
- Can you suggest standard wording for including a gift to the NAS in my will?
The following wording can be used to include a pecuniary legacy of a specific sum of money:
a. I GIVE the sum of £ (amount in figures) ( ) (amount in words) to The National Autistic Society, 393 City Road, London, EC1V 1NG, registered charity number 269425 (England and Wales) or SC039427 (in Scotland) for its general charitable purposes absolutely
b. I DECLARE that the receipt of the Chief Executive or other proper officer of The National Autistic Society shall be a sufficient discharge for the executors of my estate
Your Legal Adviser can adapt the above wording if you wish to include a gift of a share of the residue of your estate, especially if you wish to take advantage of the discounted Inheritance Tax rate.
- Who should write my will?
In order to ensure you receive the right advice, use an appropriately qualified legal adviser. The specialist advisers which you can download here are experienced in protecting vulnerable beneficiaries, as are the members of Solicitors for the Elderly.
- Can I do anything before seeing a legal adviser to make my will?
Your legal adviser will need basic information about you and your children such as full names, address, dates of birth and contact details, so make a note of these.
It is useful for you to note down who you may want to appoint as executors/trustees and guardians and, in general terms, who you want to benefit as well as to what extent, including their full names and addresses.
It is also useful for you to review your finances so you can tell your legal adviser the extent of your estate, including life policies and pensions.
- How often should I review my will?
My general rule of thumb is every five to ten years or whenever your personal circumstances change. It is also sensible to ask your legal adviser to review your will if you have included provisions to protect a vulnerable person in case there have been changes to rules or legislation.
- Can a gift to a charity help me pay less tax?
Yes, any gift to charity is exempt from Inheritance Tax. In addition if you leave 10% or more of your estate to charity the Inheritance Tax rate at which you are taxed reduces from 40% to 36%.
- Can the NAS be my executor?
Unfortunately, the NAS cannot act as executor to your will. Most people generally appoint a friend, a family member or a professional. It is a good idea to have more than one executor. If you do appoint a professional, your estate will need to pay their fees. A beneficiary can also act as executor.
- Can I give a donation to the NAS in memory of a friend or loved one?
Yes. It is a really good way to remember and pay tribute to someone close to you. By making a donation in their memory, you are making sure that their memory lives on through the vital work that the NAS does for people with autism. For more information on this type of gift, please visit www.autism.org.uk/donateinmemory.