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Do you have questions about your Will? Ask Cancer Research UK’s expert solicitor Rebecca Massey - £200 voucher to be won

(112 Posts)
CeriGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 01-Mar-23 10:43:51

Please note, this Q&A is now closed for questions. You can read the expert's answers from page 3 onwards.

Having a Will ensures our wishes are fulfilled after we die, from the distribution of our possessions to taking care of the people and organisations that matter to us. However, if you’re creating a new Will or updating an existing one it can be hard to know where to start or where to look for advice. To help you out, Cancer Research UK has invited one of their expert solicitors to answer your questions around your Will.

●Everyone who shares a question on the thread below will be entered into a prize draw.
●The Q&A will close on 15 March at 23:59
●One lucky Gransnet user will win a £200 voucher
●Rebecca will be back online on 16 and 24 March to answer a selection of your questions.

Please note, Cancer Research UK cannot provide individual legal advice to Gransnet users. For specific questions about what you should put in your Will and how to manage your estate, they always recommend talking to your own solicitor.

About the expert
Rebecca Massey is the Legacy Management Lead at Cancer Research UK and a qualified Private Client Solicitor. Rebecca has worked in the Legacies team for 10 years looking after the legacy gifts that have very generously been left to Cancer Research UK. She previously worked as Solicitor in Private Practice advising clients about their Wills and Estates’.

Cancer Research UK have a Free Will Service to help you pledge a gift to life-saving research. Here’s what they have to say about it :

‘Our Free Will Service allows anyone over 18 to easily write or update a simple Will for free. Whether you would like to write your Will in person, online or over the phone, we partner with best-in-class solicitors and Will-writing providers to give you expert support.’

Good luck with the prize draw

Insight Terms and Conditions apply

RebeccaMassey Thu 16-Mar-23 10:45:35


I want to leave my estate including my house to my daughter, how do I write a will to ensure that my son doesn't contest it when the inevitable happens as he already has a lot of money so doesn't need it.

As mentioned in answer to biglouis’s question above there are a few things you need to know about contesting Wills. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, you have the freedom in your Will to leave your estate to any individuals or organisations that you wish. You do not have to include siblings or any family members at all. This is known as testamentary freedom.

In Scotland, there is an exception to this freedom, known as Legal Rights. This gives a spouse/civil partner and the children of the deceased the right to claim a proportion of the moveable (non-property) assets of the estate. This is a form of ‘forced heirship’, meaning it is an automatic right that cannot be argued against – once claimed, it must be settled. Legal Rights do not apply to siblings.

However, in the whole of the UK, it is possible for a Will to be contested by interested parties or for a claim to be made against the estate after death. It could be that someone tries to challenge the validity of the Will in some way, for example, by saying the person did not have capacity to make it, made the Will under undue influence or that it was not executed properly. Or certain individuals may claim they were financially dependent on the deceased. While it is not possible to completely eliminate the chance of a successful challenge/claim, you can reduce the likelihood by seeking independent legal advice when drafting your Will, so that there is further evidence of your wishes and reasons for not including certain people.

jocork Thu 16-Mar-23 15:20:31

I am divorced so my will, made while married, needs updating. If I die before I do it. will it be taken into account in any way?

RebeccaMassey Fri 24-Mar-23 08:31:10


How binding are statement of wishes additions to wills?

A statement of wishes, often known as a Letter or Memorandum of Wishes, is not legally binding. It gives guidance, or expresses your preferences, to the people appointed to administer your estate or trust. They can be really useful tools, particularly if a Will or Trust gives the Executors or Trustees any discretion as to how they should act, but it’s important you know that the Executors or Trustees are not bound by the contents.

RebeccaMassey Fri 24-Mar-23 08:31:47


If you and the people named in your will/ Power of attorney, have moved house , should the will be amended, or would a simple note giving details and attached to the documents be acceptable .

There is no legal obligation to update a Will or Power of Attorney if an address changes. Addresses might be considered as descriptive, and many Wills do not include addresses for all of the people named in them. However, it is good practice to keep an updated record of addresses, perhaps simply a note stored with the Will or Power of Attorney. Be very careful not to attach anything to an original Will though, such as by paperclip or staple, as this can cause other problems.

RebeccaMassey Fri 24-Mar-23 08:33:01


Scottish will question - My husband has adult children from a previous marriage, it’s always been acrimonious. If something happens to either of us, will whichever partner is left have to sell our family home to pay his adult kids from his first marriage a portion.

Scottish Law contains specific provisions for children and surviving spouses even where there is a Will, called Legal Rights. Broadly, any entitlement is calculated by reference to the moveable assets of the estate such as bank accounts, investments and so on, but land and property is not included. I would have to recommend that you take legal advice on your own specific circumstances.

RebeccaMassey Fri 24-Mar-23 08:33:29


We have five children and presently they are joint executors of our will. Will they if they wish be able to hand the task over to say two of them?

Yes. There is no obligation for every executor named in the Will to act when the time comes. It is possible for those named to agree which of them will act. If a Grant of Probate is needed, up to a maximum of 4 may act and those acting will need to prove that they were in contact with all those named as executor (or that they attempted to contact them). It is also possible for a person named as executor to say that they do not wish to act at the outset but that they wish to reserve the right to do so at a later date.

RebeccaMassey Fri 24-Mar-23 08:34:10


Should you update your will regularly if nothing much has changed? Our wills are 12 years old but we just want to leave everything to our 2 adult children even though we now have grandchildren. You often hear that you should update them !!

 It is advisable to review your Will every five years or so - or whenever there are any other significant life events, such as births, deaths, marriages and divorces, among your circle - to ensure you are still in agreement with your wishes. If you are still happy with your Wills after reviewing them and agree there are no changes or updates needed, there is no obligation to make another.

RebeccaMassey Fri 24-Mar-23 08:35:07


Are wills stored centrally somewhere so that if it is not known which solicitor holds the will, it can be found?

There is no automatic central storage system for Wills made in the UK. However, there are organisations which have databases that can log the details and location of Wills registered with them, such as the National Will Register. These aren’t automatic services – it's down to you (or your legal representative) to register the Will. Some legal representatives will include registration within the cost of preparing your Will, so it’s worth checking this with them. It’s not compulsory to register a Will.

If a Will is not registered and you don’t know where a it’s held, people with an interest in the estate would have to enquire with local firms to check if they hold a Will. So, it’s a good idea to leave clear notes somewhere safe but accessible, stating where the Will is stored – and remember, Wills should always be stored securely.

RebeccaMassey Fri 24-Mar-23 08:35:28


Can an executor also be a beneficiary?

Yes. It is quite common for the executor to also be a beneficiary in the Will. But it is crucial that this person does not also witness the Will, or their gift will be void!

RebeccaMassey Fri 24-Mar-23 08:38:02


Is it better to write a new will or update the existing one ?

It really depends on the changes that you want to make. Although codicils are a useful way of making simple changes to Wills, it would mean that both the Wills and Codicil would need to be stored together for safekeeping and when the time comes, both admitted to Probate. I know a lot of Solicitors prefer to make changes to the Will so that your last wishes are captured in one document to avoid any confusion. If you would like to make any changes to your Will, or would like to find out more about writing or updating Wills, you might like to consider visiting Cancer Research UK’s Free Will Service.

RebeccaMassey Fri 24-Mar-23 08:40:11


If I leave money to some of my nieces & nephews, but not others, can I ensure that those left out can’t contest my choice?

Please read my response to biglouis which I hope will provide an answer to your query.

RebeccaMassey Fri 24-Mar-23 08:41:02


How can I ensure that my partners estranged son cannot claim my home? The property is in my sole name and bequeathed to my AC with right to reside granted for my partner in case I die first.

As I mentioned in Q1 in response to biglouis, it is possible for a Will to be contested by interested parties or for a claim to be made against the estate after death. While it is not possible to completely eliminate the chance of a successful challenge/claim, you can reduce the likelihood by seeking independent legal advice when drafting your Will, so that there is further evidence of your wishes and reasons for not including certain people. Your chosen beneficiaries can then use this evidence to help defend any potential claims.

RebeccaMassey Fri 24-Mar-23 08:43:08


What happens if joint executors cannot agree?

The Probate and administration process can be lengthy and occasionally disagreements might arise between Executors as to the best way to administer an Estate, for example whether to accept an offer to sell the Property. In order for the Estate administration to continue, such disagreements will need to be resolved and the Executors should try their best to talk about their concerns and reach an agreement.

If an agreement cannot be reached, it would be advisable for each Executor to seek legal advice to help resolve the stalemate. It might be at this stage that the Executors could appoint a Professional to act on their behalf, who would remain impartial and communicate with all of the Executors and beneficiaries.

As a last resort, it is possible for an Executor to have another Executor removed by Court Order but there will be substantial legal costs involved in making such an Application.

Considering all this, it’s important for you to appoint people that you can trust as your Executors, who you feel would be able to work together. Alternatively, a Professional Executor can be appointed in your Will. This might save any potential disagreements because they would be impartial, responsible for the administration and consult with the Beneficiaries as to the best way to proceed in the administration.

RebeccaMassey Fri 24-Mar-23 08:44:38


The solicitors, who my mothers will and other documents were with, have now moved without informing us and we have no clue where to. How do we track them down to be able to access all our documents?

If your mother’s will was made through a Solicitor, the Law Society and Solicitors Regulation Authority would be able to provide their new address and/or their new firm name if they have been taken over or closed. I would recommend contacting them for further details.

RebeccaMassey Fri 24-Mar-23 08:45:30


I have my late dads estate share of my moms house, should I just give it straight to my daughter or will this restrict her chances of getting her own mortagage

I would recommend taking financial and legal advice before deciding whether to transfer your share of your Mom’s house from your Dad’s estate. There are wider factors that you will need to consider, such as, if there are conditions on your ownership of the property, you and your daughter’s tax position and your Mom’s position if she is still living in the house.

RebeccaMassey Fri 24-Mar-23 08:46:40


Are DIY wills recognised in law?

As mentioned in my reply to Lollin, it is not essential to use a professional to write your Will and there are now more choices than ever with online Wills, home Will packs and so on. However, there are common pitfalls that people can fall into if they choose to write their own Will which can be avoided by using a professional. We would always recommend that you take proper advice and Cancer Research UK offers a Free Will Service which allows anyone 18+ to easily write or update a simple Will for free. Most people who use the service pledge a gift to the charity as well. You can follow this link to find your local partnered solicitor.

RebeccaMassey Fri 24-Mar-23 08:47:13


If you are married can you choose to leave your half of your estate on your death to your children rather than your spouse, if everything you and your partner own is a joint asset/finances?

Joint assets pass by survivorship which means that the surviving joint owner will inherit the asset regardless of what a will says. There are however, two ways you can own your property, as Joint Tenants or as Tenants in Common. If the latter, then you are able to leave your share of the property to your children on death. If this is something that you would like more information on then I suggest you discuss this with a professional who can advise how best to achieve this.

RebeccaMassey Fri 24-Mar-23 08:49:08


What's the cheapest way to set up a Power of Attorney?

My answer to Q4 is relevant here where I mentioned that Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) are useful documents which ensure that your affairs are looked after by the people that you have nominated (in this instance, your sons) if you are physically or mentally unable to manage your own affairs during your lifetime. There are two types of LPAs; one relating to decisions about your Financial Affairs and the other relating to decisions about your Health and Welfare. An LPA cannot be used by your Attorneys until it is registered with the Office of Public Guardian. It is worth noting that this only authorises your Attorneys to manage your affairs in your lifetime and therefore it is important to consider making or updating your Will to ensure that someone is nominated as your Executor to administer and distribute your Estate after your death.

You are able to make and register Lasting Powers of Attorney yourself. The Gov.UK website has standard forms and information on their website. Alternatively you might want to seek professional advice and help with this process and I would recommend that you contact a Legal Adviser for a quote, but this is not something that is covered by Cancer Research UK’s Free Will Service

RebeccaMassey Fri 24-Mar-23 08:50:24


If our children live in our house, in London, would they have to sell it, or could they continue to live in it.

I would recommend that you speak to a professional legal adviser. There are quite a few things to consider. It depends upon the provisions of your current will, the size of the estate, if there is any outstanding mortgage payable and, if there is any likely Inheritance Tax liability.

RebeccaMassey Fri 24-Mar-23 08:52:17


If I want to leave everything to several charities, who would be the executor, as I have no children.

We would normally recommend that individuals, wherever possible, appoint a family member or friend, who have knowledge of their personal and financial affairs, to act as their Executor. It is also possible to appoint a legal professional to act as Executor. One of the Charities might also be able to act as your Executor but the way in which charities are able to carry out the role of Executor varies depending on whether they have trust corporation status.

If you do not wish to appoint a family member or friend to be your Executor and would prefer that a charity acts as your Executor, we would recommend that you get in touch with that charity to discuss appointing them.

RebeccaMassey Fri 24-Mar-23 08:53:23


Can you add a clause that is not visible to people until you die - eg if it's proven that someone has gone above and beyond to take care of you in the case of ill health the will is subsequently amended to benefit that person more?

A Will is a legal document that expresses a person’s wishes as to how their property is to be distributed after their death. It is a private and confidential document between the individual and their Solicitor/Will writer, so would only be visible to your Executors on your death. It is at your discretion whether you provide a copy of your Will to your named Executors, friends, or family, but this is not a requirement. We would recommend that you advise your Executors that you have named them as Executors and where your original Will is kept. A Will is only ever made a public document if Probate is granted, however, Probate is not always necessary and will not be visible until you have passed away.

We would recommend that you review your Will every 5-10 years to make sure that you are happy with how your estate is distributed and this can always be changed to reflect your wishes at the time and the circumstances.

A clause cannot be added to your Will after your death, but it is common to add conditional legacies to your Will. It is also possible to leave your estate in a discretionary trust where all your money or other assets are left in trust. The Trust is managed by your appointed Trustees who will decide who will become beneficiaries and when and how they should receive inheritance from the Trust. It would be possible to leave a letter of wishes to accompany your Will stating how you would like your estate to be divided but the letter of wishes is not legally binding and would act as a guide for your Trustees on your personal wishes such as benefitting someone more if certain care was carried out. There are complexities to leaving your estate in a discretionary trust and we would strongly advise that you seek independent legal advice as to your options.

RebeccaMassey Fri 24-Mar-23 08:54:54


Is it possible to leave a "bucket" of money that would be shared out equally when the eldest grandchild reaches (say) 25 including grandchildren born after I died?

Age contingencies in Wills are common and can be used to reflect your wish to make gifts or leave a share of your estate to beneficiaries subject to them having reached a certain age first.

But please note that the wording would need to be specific, and we would recommend that you seek legal advice from a Solicitor or Will writer to ensure that your wish is met. Cancer Research UK partner with best-in-class solicitors and Will-writing providers to give expert support, for more information on their free will service follow this link.

RebeccaMassey Fri 24-Mar-23 08:56:17


I have decided not to leave everything to my daughter in my will I have left to 2 charities that I raise money for half of my house and a sum of money but she says she will contest it as her dad would of wanted her to have everything but we owned and paid for the house jointly and I am leaving her the half he wanted her to have but I told her am not leaving her my half as we bought her house for her and that’s her inheritance from us can she dispute it at all and if so would she be likely to win ?

As I mentioned in Q1 and Q26, it is possible for a Will to be contested by interested parties, such as your daughter, or for a claim to be made against the estate after death. You can reduce the likelihood by seeking independent legal advice when drafting your Will, so that there is evidence of your wishes and the reasons why you decided to distribute your estate in this way. It might be helpful to discuss your intentions with the charities that you have remembered in your Will, and this will provide further evidence of your wishes.

RebeccaMassey Fri 24-Mar-23 08:57:05


How long does it take to receive the proceeds from a will after Probate meeting ?

As per my response to Q12 from rags, the time it takes for an estate to be administered and distributed varies considerably. It depends upon the assets within the estate, for example, if there is a property it usually takes some time to market and sell the property. Also, some Executors might not need to obtain a Grant of Probate to collect the assets in an Estate but most Executors do and Probate applications can take at least 12 weeks. If you are a beneficiary in an Estate, it might be helpful to speak to the Executor to understand the steps involved which will give you an idea of timescales.

RebeccaMassey Fri 24-Mar-23 08:57:39


If we don’t use the western (I don’t know how to better explain) will but use a religious one is it legal? In otherwords can we use the religious will as is or do we have to use a lawyer to legalise it?

I mentioned in my above response to Q13 from user Iamyyewalnut84 that in order to avoid the rules of intestacy that your Will must be legally valid in England & Wales or Scotland. For this reason, I would recommend that you seek help from a legal professional so that you can be certain that your will adheres to religious laws and domestic laws.