Margaret O’Connell advises on answers to common questions clients have before making a will.
What is the first step to take to make a will?
Firstly do make an appointment with us to discuss generally your will. In general, it will take two visits with us to make your will. Some clients have a very clear picture of what they want to do in their will, some will be more uncertain. The first step is to call in to us and have a discussion with us. We can then advise you generally on the information we need, and on the decisions to be made. We will help you and guide you through the process.
One important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t try to look too far into the future. Your will is made for now- what would you like to happen if something happens to you now? Remember you can change your will at any time so as your circumstances change, you can change your will accordingly.
Who should I appoint as executor in my will?
This is an important decision. It can be one or more of your beneficiaries or it can be someone independent, but crucially it should be someone you trust will carry out your wishes when you die. You can appoint one or more executors and you can also provide for an alternative executor should your first chosen executor die before you or be unable to act.
Should I bring someone with me when I make my will?
A will is a private document. After you have made your will, it will be put in our Wills Safe and no one is entitled to see your will until you die. Even then, only your executor is entitled to see your full will. Sometimes clients believe that they must bring their executor with them to make their will but this isn’t so. Mostly we prefer to see our client alone, and this is for a number of reasons. Firstly we want to ensure your privacy. We also want to be sure that no-one is putting pressure on you to make your will a certain way. Finally we are also safeguarding your potential beneficiaries- so that no one else can make an assertion that they forced you to make your will a certain way. From time to time, clients will prefer to bring a trusted family member or friend with them and we will treat everyone according to their preference.
What information should I bring with me?
You can bring with you a list of people you would like to benefit and a list of your assets, this can be very helpful. Equally though, we are happy to talk you through these when you can if you prefer. We would like you to bring some photographic ID and a recent utility bill though.
I’m not sure what to put in my will, should I put it off?
According to research undertaken by Amárach on behalf of My Legacy, only 30% of people in Ireland have made a will. Sometimes clients believe that all their property is in joint names with their spouse so there is no need, some people are superstitious about it and many of us just keep putting it off because we are so busy with everything else going on in our lives. But there are many benefits to making a will. You are safeguarding the position for your loved ones, you may well save them a substantial amount in tax with careful tax planning in your will and best of all, you are getting peace of mind for yourself that if anything happens to you, your estate will pass the way you want it to.
Even if you are not sure about what to put in your will, we can talk you through the process and help guide you to making a decision.
How often should I review my will?
Generally we advise our clients to review their will every five years or so. But also if your circumstances change, if you marry or have children, if you get divorced or separated, if you start cohabiting, or if your assets change substantially- all of these are reasons to review your will. Inheritance tax exemptions and reliefs, thresholds and rates all change, sometimes on a yearly basis. It is thereful very useful to regularly revisit your situation. We are always ready to talk to you regarding your will.
About the author: Margaret O’Connell is an Associate Solicitor and a qualified Trust and Estate Practitioner ( TEP) and is a member of STEP international.