Settlement of the family estate is often a very emotional and stressful time for an executor, the last thing you need is to be bogged down in legal paperwork.
A lawyer can assist and advise you with your duties as an executor, but if you have any concerns about the validity of the will or other issues that may arise, it is best to consult a lawyer before you start. It is also essential to do research when you write wills. The best approach will be to explore online property wills.
Get access to the original will
The first step is to gain access to the original will. If there are multiple copies, it’s best to get them all together so they can be checked against each other. An original copy should be kept in a safe place until you’re ready to start dealing with the estate. The will may be held by the deceased’s solicitor or another trusted person who was given this responsibility by the deceased.
If there is no original copy of the will available, you need to find out if one was made and where it may be stored.
If there is no will at all, things get more complicated as there are strict rules around how assets are distributed – known as ‘intestacy.
Don’t make changes by hand
If you need to make any changes to your will after it has been signed, you must do so in the form of a codicil. A codicil is a short legal document that adds or removes parts from a will. You can add as many codicils as you want, but you should keep them all with your original will and leave instructions for where they are kept.
Get the right witnesses
You must ask two people over 18 to witness you signing your will, but they can’t be beneficiaries or married to beneficiaries in the will. If either witness is left something in the will, their gift won’t be valid and this could affect other gifts in the will too. The same goes for spouses of any beneficiaries – if they witness your signature, the entire will could become invalid.
Store your will safely
You can keep your original will at home or store it with a solicitor, bank or probate registry. Whoever stores it should charge little or no fee; some solicitors offer this service free as part of their fees.
Whether you have significant wealth or not, it is always a good idea to make a will. There are many reasons for this. One of the main ones is that you no longer have control over what will happen to your estate when you die. It must be dealt with according to the law, which means finding out what you owned in the first place and how it is to be distributed (usually between your partner and any children). This can get quite complicated if you own several properties, but ultimately it must be done by someone – and that someone could very well be a stranger.