How many of us have sat down calmly and sensibly and thought through the matter carefully? No one knows your affairs like you do and one day you will not be here to provide any guidance or direction. The likelihood is that you will leave behind a shocked and grieving family who will hardly know where to begin. And then think of the relief it will be when they locate a "roadmap" prepared by you some years prior to death (and updated regularly) setting out what needs to be done, who needs to do it and the location of all necessary records and information.
There is no set pattern. Typically a testator (someone who has made a Will) knows the capabilities and limitations of his family and will:
- Confirm what needs to be done to register the death (which has to be done within five days).
- Confirm who the Executors are and where a copy of the Will is located.
- Provide a list of all savings accounts and how a surviving spouse can access funds for necessities pending probate.
- Provide a broad idea of all assets and liabilities.
- List out details of any personal gifts exceeding £3,000 per annum made in the previous 7 years.
- Provide the passwords to digital devices and the key or code to your safe (if you have one).
- Explain how jointly-held bank accounts and other join savings can be transferred to the sole name of the surviving spouse.
- Suggest the names of a couple of firms of solicitors to be engaged for the purpose of obtaining probate and provide a provisional list of what will be required.
The list is not exhaustive. In compiling it the testator will be thinking... could this present a problem? If so the matter should be included with appropriate guidance.
This is a list of all important documents which should clearly state the location in every instance. This list should include:
- The original Will and any Letters of Wishes.
- Funeral plan details, if any.
- Birth and marriage certificate.
- Property deeds.
- Bank and building society passbooks and statements.
- Driving license/MOT certificate.
- Car registration logbook.
- Insurance certificates.
- Business and tax papers.
- Pension papers.
- Loan and finance agreements, if any.
- Credit/debit cards.
- Share certificates.
- Password details
Occasionally a testator wants a particular asset (such as a watch, a book, a picture, a chess set or other memorabilia) to go to a family member who would appreciate it. Often such requests are too small to be included in a formal Will. The matter can be covered by a simple Letter of Wishes addressed to the Executors, signed and dated, expressing the wish. Normally this will be accepted and carried out by the Executors.
This exercise will go a long way in helping anyone get their own affairs in better order, at the same time providing clear information and practical guidance to a widow/family/personal representative regarding management of the family home and financial affairs. It is a very important part of Estate Planning which is often overlooked, and if unattended only adds to the devastation of bereavement.