How to sort out your will

Everyone should have a will. It’s a legal document that records what you want to happen to your money, property and possessions after you die.

A will can also ensure that you don’t pay any more Inheritance Tax (IHT) than you need to. While you can write your will by yourself, it’s best to get advice. This is particularly relevant if your will isn’t going to be straight forward.

Your will has to be formally witnessed and then signed in order to make it legal. If you want to make changes to your will then you will have to either make a new one or make an official alteration called a codicil.

If you do not make a will, then the law decides what happens to your money, possessions and property.

What should be on your will?

Your will needs to be clear about who you want to benefit, who should be in charge of any children under the age of 18, who you want to carry out your wishes after you die (known as an executor) and what happens if the people you want to benefit from your estate should die first.

When should you get legal advice?

It’s always a good idea to get legal advice but particularly in certain circumstances. If you share a property with someone who isn’t your spouse or civil partner, for example.

Other reasons to get legal advice include:

  • Wanting to leave money or property to someone who can’t care for themselves.
  • If you have several family members who could make a claim on your estate (for example, children from another marriage)
  • If your permanent home is not in the UK.
  • If you have overseas property.
  • If you own a business.

Storing your will

You have to keep your will safe at home or in storage. If you choose to store it then you can leave it with your bank, a solicitor or a specific will storage company. You could also store it at the London Probate Service if you prefer.

Wherever you decide to keep your Will, you must inform the executor you’ve chosen of its whereabouts.

Making your will legal

In order for your will to be considered valid, you have to be 18 or over when you make it. It must be made voluntarily and you must be of sound mind. Furthermore, the will must be in writing and be signed in the presence of two witnesses (both of whom must be over 18).

The will then needs to be signed by the two witnesses, also in your presence. Any changes you make will have to go through the same process of signing and witnessing.

When to update your will

You should have your Will reviewed every five years and after any major life changing event. These include getting divorced, getting married, having a child, if the executor named in your will dies, or if you move to a new house.

Making changes to your will

Once your will has been signed and witnessed you can’t make any further changes without an official alteration. This is called a codicil and must be witnessed in the same way as the original will.

You can make any number of codicils but sometimes it’s simpler just to make a new Will. If you decide to make a new one, then it should explain that it revokes all previous wills and codicils. The old version should be burned or torn up in order to make sure it’s completely destroyed.

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Are you entitled to these benefits?

Every single year, around £3.5 billion worth of benefits are unclaimed by older people. Do you know what you are eligible for? Here’s a quick run down of some of the benefits you could be entitled to.

Attendance Allowance

If you have a disability or illness that leads you to need extra help at home, you could claim Attendance Allowance. It’s for older people who need help to remain independent at home.

The rates from April 2017 to April 2018 are £55.65 per week for help needed either during the day or at night. If you need help both day and night then it’s £83.10 per week. It’s paid every four weeks in most instances and can help a great deal.

It’s tax free and doesn’t impact on any other income you get. It’s also not means tested so the amount you might have in savings doesn’t matter. To claim you have to hit all of these criteria:

  • Be 65 or over.
  • Would benefit from personal help, including getting dressed or general supervision to help you stay safe.
  • Have any illness or disability, including sight and hearing problems, or mental health problems including dementia.
  • Have required help for at least six months.
  • If you are terminally ill, you don’t have to wait six months to claim.

Carer’s Allowance

This is the main benefit for carers and amounts to £62.70 per week (figures for April 2017 to April 2018). If you’re under pensionable age then you also receive NI credits every week.

In order to claim Carer’s Allowance, you don’t have to be related to the person you care for. Nor do you have to live with them. You could be eligible for Carer’s Allowance if you meet the following criteria.

  • You spend at least 35 hours per week looking after and caring for someone with disabilities.
  • You care for someone who is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (only the higher or middle rates apply), Personal Independence Payment daily living or Attendance Allowance.
  • You don’t earn more than £116 a week. This amount is after deductions for tax.
  • You’re not in full time education.

Health benefits

Everyone who is 60 or over is entitled to free eye tests and prescriptions. There are other health related NHS costs you could also be entitled to help with. Depending on your personal circumstances, you could be eligible for the following:

  • Free dental care on the NHS.
  • A voucher towards contact lenses or glasses.
  • Free wigs and fabric supports on the NHS.
  • Assistance with NHS travel costs to appointments.

Before paying for any treatment, if you are over 60, check with the hospital, doctor or dentist. You will also qualify for help with NHS costs if you or your partner get the following benefits:

  • Income Support.
  • Income based Jobseeker’s Allowance.
  • Income related Employment and Support Allowance.
  • Universal Credit.
  • Pension Credit (the Guarantee Credit part)
  • In some circumstances, Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit.

If you aren’t on benefits but your income is considered low you could also get help through the NHS Low Income Scheme.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

DLA helps with any costs you might face as a disabled person. It is slowly being replaced by Personal Independence Payment.

There are different DLA payments according to circumstances and age. If you’re under 65 and you haven’t already claimed any DLA then you need to look into Personal Independence Payment.

If you’re over 65 and you haven’t already claimed DLA then you will need to look into Attendance Allowance.

If you already claim DLA then you may be reassessed. It depends on your age. If you were born before 1948, your allowance will remain the same for as long as you need it. If you were born after 1948 then you will undergo a reassessment for Personal Independence Payment. The Department for Works and Pension (DWP) will let you know if this is the case.

Bereavement Benefits

If your partner (civil partner or spouse) has died then you might be eligible for certain bereavement benefits. These are not means tested and it doesn’t matter if you are working.

If the bereavement occurred after 6 April 2017, then you should find out whether you are eligible for a new benefit called Bereavement Support Payment. If it happened before that date, then you could claim Bereavement Payment, Bereavement Allowance or Widowed Parent’s Allowance.

  • Bereavement Support Payment is a lump sum of £2,500 (if you have children, it’s £3,500), then 18 monthly instalments of either £100 or £350 if you have children.
  • Bereavement Allowance (previously Widow’s Pension) is a weekly payment for a year after your partner died. The amount will depend on your age and the NI contribution of your partner. It is taxable.
  • Widowed Parent’s Allowance is paid if you have children who are dependent. It again depends on how much NI was paid by your partner, although the standard (taxable) rate is £112.55 per week.
  • Bereavement Payment is a lump sum of £2,000, which is not taxable.

These are just a few of the benefits you could be entitled to. For more information, head online to gov.co.uk.

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