Where there’s a will…

No one likes to plan for their own death but writing a will is the best way to ensure your loved ones are taken care of after you’re gone. Without one you will have no say in what happens to your assets and hard-earned savings. So if you have been putting it off, then here’s your chance to put things down on paper with a simple 10 step guide.

1. Make a list of your assets: This will make it easier for you to work out what assets you actually own, before deciding who you would like to make gifts to and how. By having all the relevant details at your fingertips it will save a considerable amount of time in the preparation of your will. 

Citizens Information provides a handy form called ‘Where my possessions are kept’ which will make it easier to identify and trace your assets after you die. http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/reference/checklists/checklist_of_where_my_possessions_are_kept.html 

2. Choose who draws up your will: Your will must be in writing, you must be over 18 and you must be of sound mind. While it is possible to write your own will without legal advice, it is well-worth investing in having a properly drafted, tax-efficient and valid will. Making a will with a solicitor is not expensive. Shop around for the best rates offered by solicitors and ask people you trust for recommendations.

3. Select your beneficiaries: This should be straightforward unless you have a complicated family structure. It is very important that it is made extremely clear what gift is being given and who it is being given to. It is quite common that people are leaving property to their relations who often bare the same name as another relation, so it is important to avoid any ambiguity. If you want to preserve family heirlooms or items of special sentimental value, you should leave these items as a specific legacy to a named beneficiary.

4. Consider a charity legacy: After you have taken care of your family and loved ones, you could consider leaving a gift to your favourite charity. Charitable donations in wills are the foundation of many Irish charities, but the culture of leaving a gift in your will to a charity is in its infancy in Ireland.

5. The format of your will: There are certain things that a will must state such as your name and address. It should include a statement that says you revoke or disown all earlier wills and a residuary clause, which is a section in your will that sets out how property not effectively dealt with in the will should be distributed. The will must also be dated.

6. Choose your executors carefully: The will should name who you have appointed as one or more executors and state these executors’ names and addresses. This is the person tasked with making sure your wishes are carried out, so you’ll want to choose someone who is responsible and who gets along well with everyone in the family. It can be a demanding role so make sure to check that they are happy to take on the responsibility.

7. Choose your witnesses: You must have two witnesses sign the will in your presence. The witnesses cannot be people who will gain from your will and they must be present with you at the same time for their attestation to be valid. The witnesses’ spouses/civil partners also cannot gain from your will. 

8. Sign your will: If you don’t sign your will in front of two independent witnesses it will not be valid. Your witnesses must see you sign it, but they do not have to see what is written in it. The signature or mark must be at the end of the will.

9. Store the will safely: Whatever you do – don’t hide your will! It is no good to anyone if it cannot be found after your death. Consider having it stored in a safe storage facility which will protect it from fire, flood, damage, or loss. 

10. Keep your will up-to-date: You should think about updating your will every four or five years. If you want to change your will, you and your witnesses must sign or initial the will in the margin of the page beside the changes. 

You can also make a separate document, called a codicil, which is an update added to the end of your will. However, if you plan to make a lot of changes, it might be easier to simply revoke your current will and make a new one, using the same procedures.