Am I too young to write a Last Will and Testament?

Am I too Young to Write a Last Will and Testament? 

Over 60% of adults don’t have a Will, and this is across all of the countries that we support; the US, UK and Canada. For Expats, this number is almost certainly going to be higher, because the process is that much more complicated.

This means one out of two adults are woefully underprepared for their own death! On a daily basis not many of us like to think about our inevitable demise, it’s morbid and something that most of us don’t want to think about. Like going to the dentist or sitting an exam, there are some uncomfortable scenarios that we put off for as long as possible. Writing a Last Will and Testament should not be one of them.

However, there comes a time when we need to face the cold hard reality that we won’t live forever and you need to write a last will and testament. Granted, writing a Last Will and Testament isn’t the most fun you can have, and when you’re young there are a million and one exciting things you would rather do but it’s really not such a long and laborious process as you might think. To help you see the benefits of having a Will we have outlined the reasons why you’re (almost) never too young to write one.

The Young Ones

In 2014 Rik Mayall, a star from the popular ‘The Young Ones’ TV series passed away unexpectedly without leaving a Will. This resulted in extra fees and expenses for his surviving family, never mind the added turmoil of not knowing how he would have liked his estate to be shared.

But this happens all the time. If you took just musicians, you could form a supergroup of Prince, Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse, Billy Holliday, Bob Marley, Barry White…..the list goes on.

Dying without a Will

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Confused about Wills? Unusual expressions demystified.

Although estate planning can be easy and intuitive, the legal jargon surrounding Wills can make it confusing for those who aren’t familiar with the process. Although many aspects of estate planning are actually relatively simple, the unfamiliar language that people associate with the law can make these aspects seem daunting, even unintelligible. The awkward words used in Wills may be intimidating, but you shouldn’t let a few unusual terms turn you away from preparing your own Will.

Wills

One of the philosophies that governs ExpatLegalWills.com is the idea that the law should be accessible, and that jargon terms shouldn’t prevent anyone from understanding their Wills. You shouldn’t be required to spend significant sums of money on legal advice just to understand your own Will. This glossary presents some of the most common terms that surround estate planning law, terms that will be useful as you write your Last Will and Testament. If there are others you would like to see, please add them in the comments.

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How to write a legal Will – the signing process

The Testator, Beneficiary, Executor, and Witness: The major roles involved in writing a legal Will.

There are several key terms that describe people in relation to your legal Will. During the estate planning process, keep these terms in mind.

  • Testator: The person creating or leaving a Last Will and Testament.
  • Beneficiary: A person who receives a gift as per the Last Will and Testament. This can be a person, a charity, or any other organisation.
  • Executor: A person selected by the testator who carries out the Last Will and Testament. Executors will distribute assets, deal with creditors, make tax payments, and perform other services on behalf of the estate. The executor can also be a beneficiary.
    • Executors are usually compensated for their services. In most jurisdictions, 5% of the aggregate value of the estate is generally the maximum payment, and executors are commonly awarded 2.5-3.5%.
    • The Executor can be a friend or family member, or you can employ the services of a professional; usually a lawyer or department within a bank. Lawyers and solicitors have been known however to charge not only a percentage of the estate, but also an hourly fee which has led to some criticism.
  • Witness: A competent person who has reached age of majority that is present with the testator for the signing and dating of the legal Will. Witnesses have to to be disinterested parties; in other words, they can not be a beneficiary, and witnessing a Will can cause a beneficiary to forfeit their gift (disinheritance), or even challenge the validity of the entire Will. In some jurisdictions the spouse of a beneficiary is also disqualified from being a witness. So at ExpatLegalWills.com we generally recommend that the person has absolutely nothing to do with the content of the Will, just to be on the safe side.

 

Write a legal Will

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Who can be a beneficiary when you write your own Will

You have finally decided that it’s time to write your own Will. There are key appointments to be made, like the naming of an Executor, or maybe guardians for your children. But the  main body of your Will is going to explain how you wish to distribute your estate (everything you own). This could be made up of a series of “bequests” to a number of “beneficiaries”. The selection of beneficiaries becomes a little more complicated for Expats, and we frequently receive questions related to who or what can be a beneficiary in the Will.

Write your own Will

A quick word on Bequests

There are three types of bequest that can be included in a Will. Continue reading

How to write a Will – the service at ExpatLegalWills.com

How to write a Will

Most people know that they need a Will, but with 65% of adults in Canada, the UK and the US without a Will, there is clearly a barrier to getting it done. In most cases there is a misconception that in order to prepare a Will, you must have an estate planning lawyer or solicitor involved.

For Expats this presents a unique challenge, especially if assets are held in more that one country. You need a Will for each country in which you are holding assets, and you would need to find a qualified legal professional in each country to deal with your estate planning needs.

You may have heard about using do-it-yourself Will kits, or online Will services, but again, with assets held in different countries, you are rightly skeptical that an off the shelf Will kit would be able to cope with the complexities of your estate.

But travelling to each country to meet with a lawyer or solicitor to draw up the legal documents is simply not practical, especially if there are other family members involved. This makes the estate planning bill escalate into the thousands of pounds or dollars. Continue reading

US Last Will and Testament: Write it from anywhere.

The US diaspora reaches every corner of the World. There are sizeable US contingents in Mexico, the Philippines, Israel and Liberia, but this is just a start. Millions of US citizens are finding new lives in Europe, Asia and Africa there are millions of US citizens with statistical estimates of anywhere from three to six million Americans living abroad.

US Last Will and Testament

A good proportion of these US citizens still hold assets back in their home country, and where you hold assets, you need a Will. So what are the steps involved in preparing your US Last Will and Testament, when you are living in a foreign country? What options are available to you? and how important is it to have a Will in place anyway?

Which approaches are available for preparing a US Last Will and Testament while living abroad?

There are fundamentally four methods of preparing a US Last Will and Testament while living overseas. Continue reading

UK Wills: how to write one from overseas

I am completely confused. I was told that a new arrangement with England and France will come into force this year, allowing me as an english woman domiciled in France to make a Will leaving my assets in France and in England to whoever I wish, as I could if I were domiciled in England.

There are millions of Expats living overseas, and our service at ExpatLegalWills.com serves the needs of the 2.8 Million Canadians, the 6 million Americans and the 13 million Brits who now regard themselves as Expats.

UK Wills

Many of these expats still have property in their homeland, and are in the process of writing their UK Wills. The question that immediately comes to mind is that if they are living say, in Dubai, Continue reading

How to write a Will: Here are your four options

Expats face some unique challenges when trying to write a Will. If they still hold assets in their home country, they need to create a Will separately to cover those assets, but the logistical challenge of say, creating a UK Will, while living in Thailand, is often insurmountable. We know that 65 percent of adults do not prepare a Will when there are no geographic challenges, so we can only guess that the number of expats without a Will would be even higher.

Write a Will

For expats there are four options for preparing a Will to cover assets held in multiple countries.

1. Write a Will starting with a blank piece of paper.

This is without a doubt the worst option. People often get muddled because they hear that if you write a Will on the back of a napkin, it is technically a legal document. Although this is correct, it will be an extremely poorly written Last Will and Testament, and the instructions may not be usable. At best there will be confusion as to what you were trying to say, at worst, the whole document will be rejected as inadequate.

Just to gain some perspective on this approach. Not even a highly trained legal professional would attempt to write a Will starting with a blank piece of paper. They use software to incorporate established legal precedents and cut and paste these known paragraphs to compile your Will. There is actually no chance of a layperson being able to write a Will of quality with no reference materials.

A well drafted Will would usually be about five or six pages, and include over twenty clauses, many of which provide instructions on the scope and powers given to the trustee of the estate. These are very important clauses which would almost certainly be missing if you decide to write a Will starting with a blank sheet of paper.

You may hear of the term “holographic Will” which means that the document is written entirely by hand. In some States, Provinces and countries these documents are accepted as legal Wills, but the law is there to support a situation where a person is dying in extreme circumstances and need to quickly write a Will. There are also special laws for active military personnel. Just because these laws exist, they should not be used as a recommended approach to preparing your own estate planning documents.

2. Write a Will using a blank form Will kit

This is one step up from starting with a blank piece of paper. The form will likely provide you with some basic headings and will usually come with a guidebook explaining how to complete each section. We have written extensively across all of our blogs detailing the dangers of these blank form kits. They will not be able to check for errors, will leave too much blank space for you to complete, and will likely not guide you through contingency plans. There have been several well documented cases of people using these blank form kits to write a Will and making a complete mess of things.

You have no assurance that if you write a Will using a blank form kit that the kit has been kept up-to-date to reflect current laws. It will almost certainly not be specific to the jurisdiction (the laws of British Columbia are different to Ontario, and Texas compared to California).

Furthermore, as an expat you are faced with a particular challenge. You would need to find a kit that complies with the legal requirements of the jurisdiction in which you are holding assets, in other words, you may have to purchase a Canadian Will kit while living in Australia. This is of course possible now in the days of online shopping, but you will not be able to purchase a Will that works together with a Will written for your new home. In fact, a standard Will kit probably revokes (cancels) a Will that you have written for your new country of residence. You would need a kit that deals exclusively with assets held in one jurisdiction and not concern itself with assets held in another jurisdiction. To our knowledge, this type of kit does not exist.

3. Write a Will through a lawyer or solicitor

This is one way to ensure that your Will is probably going to be written correctly, but it is a logistical challenge. If you are in Hong Kong and need a Will to cover your UK assets, you will need to write a Will through a solicitor who is familiar with UK law, and licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction. Invariably, this means travelling to the UK to prepare the Will. Likewise, if you are a US expat living in Dubai, and you wish to write a Will through an estate planning lawyer, you will need to travel back to the US to consult with the lawyer, and have the paperwork signed.

You may be able to have the lawyer write a Will on your behalf based on a phone consultation, but there are still signing requirements to be dealt with, and a facsimile or digital version of a Will is not a legally admissible document. It must be an original, signed document to be accepted by the courts.

This approach would likely end up costing thousands of dollars in legal fees and travel. Clearly, it can be combined with a trip back to your home country, but if you are not planning a trip, then making the journey in order to prepare a Will is improbable.

4. Write a Will using an online Will service

Fortunately, there now exists a convenient and affordable solution to this dilemma. The option to write a Will under the laws of Canada, the US or UK, while sitting in Thailand, India or Dubai. Furthermore, the solution provides you with a Will that deals exclusively with the assets held in that jurisdiction, and is written to work together with any Will written for your new home. The final document would look identical to a Will created by a lawyer in the US or Canada, or a solicitor in the UK (we use the same software that they use, we just give you direct access to it).

To write a Will using our service you would simply go to www.expatlegalwills.com and click on “start your Will”. You firstly identify where your assets are located, and where you are living, this directs the service to prepare the correct Will under the laws of your chosen jurisdiction.

You then step through the process of preparing your Will by answering a series of questions about your family situation, and how you would like your UK, Canadian or US assets to be distributed. You would also choose an Executor to administer the estate in that country at the appropriate time.

Answering the questions takes about 20 minutes, and the service costs $34.95 or £24.95. Once you have completed answering the questions, you download and print your document. Sign it in the presence of two witnesses, and you are done, you have managed to write a Will to cover your assets while living abroad.

 

Writing a Will when you live outside of the UK

I am retired in Thailand, lived all over the place so I have assets in numerous countries and I wish to update my Will. On talking with a local lawyer he told me he can establish a will in Thailand to cover my assets here but I will need to do separate ones for other countries.

As a UK citizen, resident here in Thailand, I want to make a Will which will be effective both here and there. Any ideas about how to go about it? Does it require two separate documents to cover assets in both places?

UK Last Will and Testament

When we look through various expat forums this is one of the most common questions asked. You can see variations on the question here and here. “If I’m living overseas, but have assets in my home country, how do I prepare my UK Last Will and Testament”.

What follows in the forums Continue reading

The International Will

The basics of a Will are pretty much the same in any jurisdiction in the World. The document needs to identify the person making the Will, describe the distribution of the estate, and be signed in the presence of two witnesses. It should also ideally name an Executor or estate administrator to carry out the instructions in the Will.

International Will

If a Last Will and Testament is that simple, you would think that a Will written in any jurisdiction would be accepted in any other jurisdiction, but unfortunately things are not as simply as that. Our partner websites at LegalWills.ca, USLegalWills.com and LegalWills.co.uk all offer interactive Will services that are very different from each other, even though the over-riding principles are the same. In fact, the Canadian and US services adapt the final document and help text across different States or Provinces.

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Expat Wills

I have been assigned to a one year position in Dubai, but all of my assets are in the US. I know I need a Last Will and Testament, how do I get one written?

Expat Last Will and Testament

This is a problem not only for people of temporary work assignments, but also for people who have permanently relocated, or have retired overseas. In our new mobile global economy, the number of expats is growing year on year. There are currently about 2.8 million Canadians living abroad (9 percent of the population) with over a million in the US alone. 6.3 million Americans live overseas, and 4.6 million Brits (with the number one destination being Australia at 1.4 million).

Many of these expats still have assets in their home country, and if they were to die without a Will, these assets would be subject to distribution by the intestate laws of the jurisdiction in which the assets are held. These laws are complicated, and in the UK, they are about to change on October 1st this year.

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Can I write my own Last Will and Testament?

This is one of our most frequently asked questions, but it can mean one of two things;

A. Can I sit down with a blank piece of paper and write my own Last Will and Testament?
B. Can I prepare my own legal Will without using a legal professional.

Let us first explore question A.

Can I write my own Last Will and Testament?

The answer is “yes….but don’t”. The basic requirements of a Will are simple;

  • The document must be clearly identified as a Will, and that it is expressing your wishes.
  • Ideally it should revoke (or cancel) previous Wills
  • You must demonstrate that you have the capacity to make a Will
  • You must sign it in the presence of two witnesses (unless the document is entirely handwritten in which case witnesses are usually not required). The witnesses cannot be beneficiaries, but can be any adults with mental capacity. No legal training is required in order to be a witness to the signing of the Will.
  • The Will should describe the distribution of assets to beneficiaries

If all of these requirements are met, Continue reading

Our new home for advice on your Last Will and Testament

For the last couple of years we have used https://legalwills.wordpress.com to share our thoughts on the importance of writing your Last Will and Testament. We have offered tips ranging from choosing an Executor to selecting the most appropriate guardian for your children. We have offered our views on celebrity estate planning news including articles on the estate of Anna Nicole Smith, Stieg Larsson and others. But most importantly we have been encouraging people to prepare their Last Will and Testament.Last-Will-and-Testament

After 115 posts, we have decided to move our blog to reside on our website, so all of the information that you need is right here where you need it. It make take us a while to have another 100 articles for you; we try to make our discussions topical and useful. But over time we hope that our new blog becomes a useful resource for you.