Leaving Assets to Family and Non-Family
Your decisions as regards to the disbursement of your estate (that is the way in which your assets will be distributed after your death) may well be something to which you have not given much thought. If you are married then it is natural to assume that your entire estate will pass directly to your spouse. Indeed this may well be the case, but this choice is not the obvious one for everyone. Indeed, if you are not married or simply wish to give parts of your estate to non-family members, then the wording of your will may be slightly convoluted.
FamilyLeaving assets to family may well prove to be easier than leaving assets to non-family members. Many people who wish to leave their entire estate to their spouse presume that this means that there is no necessity to write a will. This is not the case, however; although the laws of intestacy state that your estate would pass directly to your spouse if you died without having left such a document, if your assets are valued over a certain amount then your beneficiary is likely to be liable to pay considerable sums of Inheritance Tax. If you write a will, however, you may be able to avoid this. For more information on this you may wish to read articles on trusts elsewhere on this site.
If you choose this course of action, then a simple line in your will stating that you wish for all of your assets to pass to your spouse will be sufficient, unless you do set up one or more trusts. In the latter case the wording will be more complex, as is explained in the articles mentioned above. You should remember, however, that if you divorce (or have your civil partnership annulled), then this part of your will may be invalid. In this case, you should always seek professional advice as you may be required to have the document rewritten.
Non-FamilyIf you wish to leave assets to individuals who are not members of your family, the process can in fact be simpler - there is no risk, for example, of the definition of ‘spouse’ becoming confused if you divorce. In the same way as you would stipulate which family members you wish to leave assets to, you should precisely name the individuals to whom you are leaving items.
Similarly, if the assets you are leaving are physical items such as jewellery (as opposed to financial assets or monetary instruments) then you should make sure that you stipulate very clearly which item is in question. Go into as much details as is reasonably possible in order to avoid confusion. If you are giving a large number of different gifts then you may also wish to create a separate list, which you can then reference from your will. You should ensure that this list is kept with the will itself if you choose this course of action.
OrganisationsFinally, you may also wish to bequeath part of your estate to an organization - a charity, for example. If you are doing this you should again ensure that you go into as much detail as possible about the asset that you are bequeathing, and you should also make sure that you provide comprehensive information about the organization. As well as the name of the group, you should also provide an address and, where possible, a contact name and banking details if you are leaving financial assets.
As with most other aspects of your will, precision and the inclusion of as much information as possible should help to avoid any potential misunderstandings.