You should decide who receives your assets and savings - if you don't leave a Will, Scots law has fixed rules on who will inherit all of your property.
If you have a partner, you can make sure you provide for them after your death.
If you don't make a Will, your estate will have to pay additional costs of up to £1000 for special insurance premiums, court costs etc.
Making a Will
Most people have a clear idea of who should inherit their property but making a Will is a very easy thing to put off until tomorrow. We can assure you that the process is quite painless.
Simply jot down the names and addresses of your intended beneficiaries and leave the rest to us. We'll prepare a draft Will for you to look over at home then prepare a principal Will for you to sign which can be either kept by you or stored in our strongroom until it is needed.
Many people have simple legal requirements and we try to keep the legal jargon to a minimum. As an alternative to a simple Will, some people might wish their estates to be held in trust for their spouse or partner before passing to their children or other beneficiaries. Liferent Trusts are back in fashion and we can advise you on the setting up and administration of such Trusts. (If you have previously made a Discretionary Trust Will, recent changes to Inheritance Tax rules may have made these Trusts unnecessary and expensive. You should certainly consult a solicitor for up-to-date advice).
Failing to make a Will can be costly. When there is no Will, your estate passes in accordance with fixed rules even if you had no contact with an entitled relative. There are also extra costs in having the court appoint an Executor as well as arranging an insurance bond which usually costs several hundred pounds.
A simple Will should cost around £120 plus VAT, and for a couple making mirror Wills in favour of each other and then their children, the cost will be from £175 plus VAT. An estimate of costs for more complicated Wills or Trusts will be given on request.
Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney is a deed of authorising someone (a relative or friend) to sign documents or make decisions for you. The most commonly used is the enduring Power of Attorney which allows your chosen Attorney to sign cheques and other business documents when you are no longer able to do so yourself. A Power of Attorney should not be confused with being appointed as someone’s Executor. Attorneys act for you when you are alive; Executors take over after your death.
There are two types of Power of Attorney:
a) Continuing or Enduring Power of Attorney (as explained above), or
b) Welfare Power of Attorney which allows your Attorney to make decisions about your care, any necessary medical procedures or other personal matters at a time when you cannot make such decisions for yourself. These can be combined in a single deed.
Making a Power of Attorney should avoid the high cost of applying to the court for appointment of a guardian if you become incapacitated. With a Power of Attorney in place, there is no need to go to court and the Power of Attorney will be accepted by banks and any other business which requires evidence that you have appointed someone to look after your affairs.
Once signed, you can elect to register it with the Office of the Public Guardian in Falkirk. and the Power of Attorney is then ready to circulate around banks, building societies, etc.
It is important to make a Power of Attorney while you are in good health. It cannot be made after the onset of an illness which impairs mental capacity such as senile dementia or a severe stroke.
You should appoint an Attorney who is a trusted family member or a friend, although the appointment can be revoked should you change your mind. Selection of an appropriate person is probably your most important task. When there are no family members, a good friend or a professional person can be appointed.
If you wish to make a Power of Attorney or need advice for a relative or friend, our partners Andrew Hodge and Stephen Cumming will keep you right.
Glossary of basic terms
Testator - the person making the Will.
Beneficiary - the individual, charity etc. receiving something in terms of the Will.
Executor/Trustee - an Executor is the person appointed in a Will to carry out the testator’s instructions and to wind up the estate. In a standard estate, the Executor instructs a solicitor to attend to all of the administrative work involved and supervises the distribution of the estate to the beneficiaries. A Trustee is the person who administers the testator’s estate, usually over a much longer period of time such as the lifetime of the testator’s spouse or partner.
Legacy - a sum of money or specific item which you leave to someone.
Residue - the remainder of your property after debts have been settled and legacies paid.