In simple terms a will sets out what is to be done with your assets when you die and who is to benefit.
- It can be as simple or as complex as your circumstances require.
- It should take account of your particular family circumstances and your wishes for your family in the event of your death.
- It should take into account the nature and extent of your assets, your liabilities and the inheritance tax implications for your beneficiaries.
Your will does not take effect until you pass away . It can be changed by you at any time and indeed should be regularly reviewed to ensure it’s appropriate to your circumstances.
In your will you will appoint an Executor- the person whom who entrust to give effect to your wishes as set out in your will in the event of your death. It will be your Executor’s job, in the event of your death, to gather in your assets, pay your debts and distribute your net estate amongst your beneficiaries. It is a position of great trust and responsibility.
If your children are under 18, you should also appoint a Guardian, a trusted person to have the legal responsibility for their welfare.
You can also appoint Trustees under your will to hold assets on behalf of your beneficiaries and to use them for the beneficiaries’ benefit in circumstances where the beneficiaries may be too young or so incapacitated as to be unable to manage those assets themselves.
The principal advantage of a will is that you dictate its terms- you decide who gets what and when.
Without a will, the fate of your assets, and your family, will be determined by law- the law of intestacy. People outside your family will not receive anything or members of your family may not receive what you would have wished.
If a married person, without children, dies without having made a will, then all his/her assets pass to the surviving spouse. If a married person, witht children, dies without having made a will, then 2/3 of all his/her assets pass to the surviving spouse and 1/3of the assets pass to the surviving children. This can lead to problems as often the children are very young and obviously unable to make any decisions regarding money or property or there can be several children entitled to a share in a property and all having different views as to what should happen to the property.
When you die, the people who inherit from you- your beneficiaries- may be liable to inheritance tax. There is no inheritance tax on assets passing to a surviving spouse. Under the current rules, a Child can take up to €250,000 worth of assets from his/her parents tax free. A brother/sister/niece/nephew/grandchild of a deceased person can inherit up to €33,500 worth of assets tax free, provided he/she has not taken a previous gift or inheritance from anyone in a similar degree of relationship. Someone who is not related to the deceased can inherit up to €16,750 worth of assets tax free, provided they have not taken a previous gift or inheritance from other non related persons
The current rate of inheritance tax is 30% – whatever benefit is in excess of the tax free amount is taxed at 30%. This can be significant but if you make a will, your solicitor can consider whether its likely your beneficiaries will be liable for inheritance tax and you may be able to plan your will so that the tax payable will be minimised.
Making a will is not difficult, it is not something to be nervous about and it is not expensive. As you read this you, you are nodding to yourself- you agree it’s a good idea to make a will and you are planning to make your will tomorrow, next week, next month………..and then you will forget. Don’t forget- be sensible, be proactive, be in control. Pick up the phone now and arrange to make your will .
CATHERINE STACK is a partner of Stone Solicitors, a law firm that has been practicing from 14 North Main Street, Wexford, for the last 20 years.
CATHERINE specialises in drafting wills, administration of estates, probate disputes and capital taxes.
Stone Solicitors can be contacted on 053 9146144 or by e-mail email@example.com .