It’s very easy to put off making a will. No-one likes to think about their own mortality, and it can be tricky working out who should inherit what, whether it’s property, money or possessions.
Let’s break it down into stages to make it more manageable.
Who gets what in your will?
Who would you like to benefit from your will? You could make a list of people that you would like to inherit from you such as your spouse or partner, children, other family members, friends and charities. The people that benefit from your will are called beneficiaries.
How much do you own?
Have a think about what you own, including money in bank or building society accounts, property, pensions, life assurance and possibly a business. Try to estimate the value of these assets. You may also have cars, furniture or jewellery that have significant or sentimental value, which you may like to leave to someone in particular. You should also consider your digital assets. You can make all this clear in your will.
What about specific gifts in your will?
You could start thinking about specific items or amounts of money to leave to your beneficiaries, such as ‘my wedding ring to my daughter’ or ‘£1,000 to my son’. These are called specific gifts. You can leave the remainder, known as ‘the residue’, to your other beneficiaries. Because you won’t know how much you will have left, divide it into shares. For example ‘I leave the family home to my wife, and the residue of my estate is to be divided in equal shares between my children’.
Will you have to pay inheritance tax?
The inheritance tax allowance is currently £325,000 for an individual, or £650,000 for a couple who are either married or in a civil partnership. If you live with your partner but are not legally civil partners, then he or she will not qualify from this allowance after you die.
Anything over this threshold will usually be charged at 40% for inheritance tax. You can leave everything to your spouse or civil partner free of inheritance tax.
The Residence Nil Rate Band gives you an additional allowance of £175,000 (frozen until 5 April 2026) to be used against your home, provided you leave it to your children or grandchildren. This allowance can be transferred to a spouse or civil partner if it isn’t used up on the first death. It’s best to take professional advice, if you are unsure, because it is a complicated matter and there could be other reliefs or allowances available to you.
There is an unlimited relief for a spouse/civil partner if both are UK domiciled (or transferor non-domiciled).
If it is a gift from a UK domiciled to a non-UK domiciled spouse/civil partner (the non-UK domiciled spouse/civil partner can elect to be treated as UK domiciled for IHT purposes) then it is £325,000.
Do you have any vulnerable family members?
If you have young children, you can appoint a legal guardian in your will to ensure that if something were happen to you and your partner, they will be looked after by someone you trust implicitly with their well-being.
If you have a family member with disabilities, or mental health issues, who you need to provide for after your death, you should speak to a professional about setting up a trust. This can be managed by someone that you trust after you have gone, and you can leave specific instructions or wishes about how they should manage it. (For further information, read ‘How can I make sure my disabled child is provided for when I die?’)
Who can help me make a will?
As specialists in inheritance and succession planning, members of STEP, who are known as TEPs, draft wills and trusts, administer estates, act as trustees and advise families on how best to preserve their assets for future generations.
Choosing a professional to help you to deal with such important and often sensitive issues can be difficult. Many aspects of planning are non-regulated, meaning anyone can write a will, for example, regardless of training or expertise. With a TEP, you’re in safe hands.