Each year, The Norfolk Hospice relies on £2.5 million of support from the community to operate their essential services. A gift in a will has the power to support those facing a life-limiting illness. To support the Hospice with their legacy campaign, Stephenson and Smart have provided informative articles around wills and estate planning.

End of life planning is crucial in ensuring that your wishes are met in the event of your death.  If you own property, or have significant money or other possessions, it is also about managing these to try and ensure that as much as possible passes on to your family, loved ones, and causes that are important to you.

In making a will, you are drawing up the legal document that will set out your wishes and be used as the record of ensuring that they are adhered to.

It is advisable to use a suitably qualified advisor to prepare your will, as well as making the document formal, they can also provide advice. This is important when it come to the taxes, such as inheritance tax, that may be due on any property, money or possessions in your estate.

If, at any time, you want to update your will, you will need to make an official alteration called a codicil or make a new will.

Criteria for making a will

To make a will, you need to:

          ·       be 18 or above and have full mental capacity.

          ·       have the intent to make a will and do it voluntarily.

          ·       decide who will inherit your property and assets.

          ·       choose an executor to handle your estate.

It is worth sitting down and answering these questions for yourself before sitting in front of the person you have asked to help draw up your will.  This information will help them to make a full assessment of your estate and best advise you on how to structure your will.

Types of wills

There are four different types of wills in the UK:

          ·       Single Will

          ·       Joint (mirror) Will

          ·       Living Will

          ·       Will Trust

A Single Will is suitable for an individual, whether they have a partner or not.  It is different from a combined or reciprocal will, which is a single document for both spouses. In most cases I would recommend creating an individual will for each spouse.

A Joint Will is a single legal document that is signed by two or more people, usually a married couple, who share the same assets and beneficiaries. A joint will is treated as two or more separate wills by the law, they typically state that when one person dies, their portion of the estate passes to the other. A joint will is rarely used nowadays, as it can be problematic and inflexible; in most cases it is preferable to create separate, Single Wills.

Living Wills tend to cover medical wishes and are also known as ‘advance decision’ documents. They can be used for legally stating wishes for medical treatment if you become terminally ill, or if you lose the ability to make decisions for yourself.

A Will Trust, also called a testamentary trust, is a legal entity created within a will to allow you to protect property you hope to pass on to your family. You create the trust and appoint people to manage it - the 'trustees', on behalf of the 'beneficiaries' - who receive the benefit of the assets of the trust. A trust is a legal arrangement that protects assets and directs their use and disposition in accordance with their owners’ intentions. Trusts provide for the management and distribution of your assets during lifetime and after death.

It is never too soon to think about writing a will.  When you reach the part of your life journey where you start to own property or other assets, I would recommend seeking the advice of an expert, no matter what age you are or if you don’t yet have dependents.  In the event of an incapacitating accident, illness, or death it is much easier and less stressful for you family to carry out your wishes.

To discuss leaving a gift to The Norfolk Hospice please contact In Memory Fundraiser, Carol Mott, on 01485 601701 or email [email protected]

This article was written by Claire Melton from Stephenson Smart.

Stephenson Smart Chartered Accountants have offices throughout Norfolk and can offer expert advice in probate, trusts and estates. They are working with The Norfolk Hospice as their nominated Charity of the Year.

Image credit: Gary Pearson Photography