Wills & Estate Planning
Many organisations offer to draft Wills for clients but the services they offer can be very different. At Gilbert Stephens solicitors we do not see your will as just a single document that sits in isolation. Instead we see our clients’ Wills as a vital part of their individual estate and wealth planning, and our role is to guide each client to a Will that fits perfectly with their own wishes and the needs of their families. In other words we do not just “write Wills” but offer our clients a comprehensive estate planning service.
One of the distinctive features of English Law is that it offers each of us the opportunity to choose exactly what should happen to our property and assets in the event of our death. Most jurisdictions, including Scotland, stipulate fixed inheritances for particular family members in respect of certain types of property. Exercising this freedom of testation (as lawyers call it) is reason in itself for making sure that you have a Will in place which expresses your own free will in respect of your property.
There are some safeguards for close relatives and those financially dependent on the person making the Will. This means that anyone who wants to make a Will which may disappoint the expectations of family members will need careful, considered and practical legal advice to ensure that their Will can stand up to any challenge. Our team of legally qualified specialist advisors have the knowledge and experience to guide you through.
There can also be challenges presented by those with foreign assets, family farms and companies and certain other forms of property which require special provisions in Wills to ensure that the Will maker’s wishes can be put into effect. Those challenges include addressing tax issues as well as some inherent legal complications. Our team of legally qualified specialist advisors are well versed in these issues.
Inheritance Tax also needs to be considered by many people when making their Wills and we can offer practical specialist advice in this area. Minimising the impact of Inheritance Tax on your estate requires looking at your Will in a wider context and recognising that there are likely to be other matters to be addressed (for example lifetime giving and trust creation) which need to be consistent with your Will. Gilbert Stephens solicitors has the expertise required to help you maximise the wealth that passes to your family (or whoever else you may wish to benefit under your Will).
If you do not have a valid Will in place then your property and assets will be divided in accordance with the Intestacy Rules (as lawyers call them) which are set out in the Administration of Estates Act 1925. The Intestacy Rules are essentially Parliament’s guess at what most people would want to find in their Will. Unfortunately one size does not fit all, and amongst those likely to want their Will to differ significantly from what Parliament has specified would be:
- Unmarried couples;
- Married couples where one or both of them have been married before;
- People with children who are under 18;
- People with no children of their own; and
- People who wish to give to charities under their Will.
One issue that is often overlooked by those who think that they do not need a Will is the question of who should be given the job of administering your estate when you die. Those framing the Intestacy Rules could not be expected to devise a formula that suited individual circumstances, and it might well be thought that choosing your executors is the most important reason for making a Will. This is particularly the case for those whose Wills need to provide for young children or for anyone with any form of disability that might make it difficult for them to manage an inheritance.
A Will is also the simplest method for a parent to appoint suitable guardians to look after their children should they die before any of those children reach 18.
In addition to making sure that you have chosen executors and guardians, a Will is the only way of imposing your will on how assets are dealt with following your death and here are a few reasons why you might need to make a Will:
- You do not want to treat your children mathematically equally;
- You want to provide for someone who may have particular problems or difficulties which mean that they are best provided for by using a trust (for example: people with mental health issues, people with learning disabilities, people with matrimonial difficulties, people with financial difficulties or bankruptcy issues or people claiming means tested benefits who need their right to do so preserved);
- If you have been married more than once you may need to balance the needs and expectations of your spouse and your children; or
- You may wish to provide for people who are not your relatives or to give money to charities or other organisations.
It is your Will and you should make it in your own image. Wills are perhaps the most important documents that many people ever sign. For that reason it is important that the Will that you sign is absolutely as it should be, and that is where Gilbert Stephens Solicitors comes in. Any of our Wills & Estate Planning team can give you the advice you need to ensure that your wishes and the needs of your family are properly addressed by your Will.
Why choose us
Many of our team of legally qualified specialist advisors are full members of STEP (the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) or are Affiliate members of STEP studying for the diploma exams that lead to full membership. STEP is the leading worldwide professional body for practitioners in the fields of trusts, estates and related issues. STEP members help families plan their long term financial future, facilitating good stewardship and financial planning across future generations. STEP members also help families comply with the often complex tax rules surrounding trusts, estates and inheritance.
Please get in touch
Email: or contact our Wills and Estate Administration team.