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Making a Will

If you have any questions or wish to discuss leaving us a gift in your Will, please contact our Legacy Officer on 01284 715559 or email legacies@stnh.org.uk
What is a Will and why do I need one?

Your Will is a written record of your instructions for how your Estate – that is, everything you own, less everything you owe – is to be dealt with after your death.  A Will is legally valid only if:

  • you write it voluntarily when you are aged 18 or over and “of sound mind”, and
  • you sign it in the presence of two witnesses who are aged 18 or over and who themselves sign it in your presence.  (Note that neither witness nor their married partners can be left anything in your Will.)

Your Will should set out who you wish to act as your Executors – that is, one or more people who you would like to carry out your wishes, gather in all your assets and pay off all your debts.  It should also appoint guardians – family members or friends – to look after any of your minor children (those below the age of 18) when you die; who is to benefit from your money and possessions after your debts have been paid (your beneficiaries); and what should happen if your beneficiaries die before you.

You should let your Executors know that you have appointed them in your Will and where your Will can be found after your death, which may be at your home; with your bank, your solicitor or a commercial Will storage company; or at the London Probate Service.

After you die, your Executors – if they agree – will apply to the Court for the legal right to deal with your Estate according to your wishes.  This is known as a “grant of representation”, also called Probate.

What happens if I don’t have a Will?

Without a Will, you have no control over who deals with your Estate after you die, who benefits from your Estate or who looks after your minor children.

With no Will, you have no Executor.  Instead, your next-of-kin – whether that’s your spouse or civil partner (including a separated spouse), a child aged 18 or over, or a parent – may be appointed by the Court to act as the Administrator of your Estate.  An unmarried partner may not apply to act as Administrator.  Guardians for your minor children will be appointed by the Court, and Social Services may become involved in their care, according to circumstances.

Your Estate will be distributed according to the law and which family members survive you, in a strictly defined order of succession.  So, your spouse or civil partner (including a separated spouse if you are not yet divorced) may benefit in full or in part, followed by your children and grandchildren.  However, if you are unmarried, have no children and no siblings, and your parents and grandparents have died before you, your Estate may end up with aunts and uncles or their descendants – people you may never have known – or, if you have no surviving family whatsoever, in the hands of the Crown.

An unmarried partner has no legal entitlement to any of your Estate so, if you wish to provide for him or her, you must make a Will.

When should I make a Will?

If you are aged 18 or over you should make a Will and every five years you should review it to ensure it still reflects your wishes.  You should always review your Will after marriage (which automatically cancels out your previous Will) and you should also review it following the birth of a child, when you move house, if the executor named in your Will dies, or on separation or divorce.

How do I change my Will?

Once a Will has been signed and witnessed it cannot be changed, other than by the addition of an official alteration document called a Codicil – which must be signed and witnessed in the same way as your Will – or by making a new Will.

While there is no limit to the number of Codicils you can add to a Will, you will need legal advice to ensure that each new Codicil does not invalidate your Will or previous Codicils.

In many respects, and in the case of major changes, you should consider making a new Will which should revoke (officially cancel) all previous Wills and Codicils – and you should destroy your old Will and Codicils by shredding or burning.

Do I need legal advice or can I do it myself?

You can write your Will yourself or use an off-the-shelf document from a stationer’s, or you can engage a Will-writing service either face-to-face or online.  However, without taking professional legal advice you cannot be certain that your Will is tailored to meet all of your needs, or written such that it averts possible conflicts or difficulties, especially if matters are less than straightforward, for example, if:

• you have shared ownership of a property with someone who isn’t your spouse or civil partner; or

• you own a business; or

• you own property overseas or your permanent home is outside the UK; or

• you have family members who may wish to make a claim against your Estate, such as a former spouse or children from a previous marriage; or

• you wish to provide for someone who isn’t able to care for themselves.

You will find a list of local legal advisers who support St Nicholas Hospice Care here

If you have any questions or would like to discuss leaving us a gift in your Will, please contact our Legacy Officer on 01284 715559 or email legacies@stnh.org.uk