What happens if I don’t make a will?
If you die without making a will, you are said to die “intestate” and the law (The Succession Act 1965) will determine who is entitled to all of your possessions and any assets you might have.
Your estate will go to probate and an ‘administrator’ will be appointed. An administrator is a legal term referring to a person appointed by a court to administer an estate. This person will settle debts, pay any necessary taxes and funeral expenses and distribute the remainder of your estate to your heirs in accordance with the law.
How do I go about making a will?
- Step 1: Make a list of all of your assets, taking care to include items of sentimental value which you may want particular people to inherit.
- Step 2: Choose the executors.
- Step 3: Outline how you want your estate and belongings distributed. It is important to include as much detail as possible, particularly where there may be specific time limits (e.g. at a child’s 18th birthday). There may be inheritance tax restrictions on how much money / assets you can leave to family members, so familiarise yourself with these in advance or speak to your solicitor for guidance.
- Step 4: Include any particular wishes you may have around your funeral arrangements.
- - Step 5: Sign and date your will in the presence of your witnesses (witnesses must be over 18 and they cannot be beneficiaries in your will)
What is a ‘DIY’ will?
There are 2 ways you can write a will – either in consultation with a solicitor, or through templates which are available to buy online, commonly known as ‘DIY’ wills.
If your plans for your estate are relatively straightforward, a DIY will could be an option. However, it is important to ensure that you use a template which has been approved by a Legal specialist and is recognised by Irish law. It is also important that you follow all of the instructions carefully as incorrect details or mistakes could make your will invalid or open to challenge, resulting in the problems you were trying to avoid in the first place by making a will.
However, if you have a more complicated estate (e.g. if you are divorced, have children from a previous relationship or those that have particular needs, or if you have large business interests), we would recommend that you speak to a solicitor to get specialist advice on estate and inheritance planning.
What is a ‘living will’?
A “living will” (also known as an “enduring power of attorney”), allows you to appoint someone to look after your affairs if you are no longer able to do it yourself (e.g. if you had an accident or became ill and could no longer manage your own affairs). The people you choose cannot take control of your estate until they have gone through a legal process and can produce medical evidence to show that you do not have the mental capacity to manage your own affairs. You can decide to give them control over decisions relating to your “personal care” or over all of your assets. You continue to have full control over all of your affairs until such time as your loss of mental capacity has been proven and the enduring power of attorney takes effect.
Who can witness my will?
A witness cannot be someone who will benefit under your will, or the spouse / civil partner of someone who will benefit. A witness must be over 18 years of age. The witnesses do not have to read your will or know what it contains, they are just witnessing that it is your signature.
How can I minimise the amount of tax payable on my inheritance?
The beneficiaries of your estate may have to pay inheritance tax on anything they receive from you (with the exception of your spouse / civil partner who will not have to pay any tax). They will have to pay this tax normally within a short time after your death.
Depending on their relationship to you, the amount of tax they may have to pay will vary – the table below gives a brief overview, for further details see www.revenue.ie
|Currently €280,000||Currently €30,150||Currently €15,075|
We would recommend that you familiarise yourself with the reliefs and exemptions which are available – your financial adviser or solicitor will be able to advise you of any changes to these thresholds.
Where should I keep my will?
It is important to let your executors know where your will is stored – e.g. with your solicitor or in a safe deposit box. You should ensure that it is stored safely, preferably in a fireproof safe or safe deposit box. If your will cannot be located when you pass away, you are said to have died ‘intestate’ and Irish intestacy laws will determine who gets what from your estate.
How do I change my will?
It is important that your will is kept up to date as your life and family circumstances change - some reasons to change your will could include:
- marriage, divorce or separation;
- cohabiting or entering a civil partnership;
- the birth of a child or a death in your family;
- change in your financial circumstances;
- changes in tax law.
There are a few ways you can change your will:
- you and your witnesses must sign or initial the will in the margin of the page beside the changes;
- you can change your will in the form of a memorandum or written note that is signed by you and your witnesses that refers clearly to the changes;
- you can also make a separate document, called a ‘codicil’, which is added to the end of your will. This document, again signed by you and your witnesses, should set out clearly and accurately the changes you want to make to your will. These changes are then legally binding.
However, if you plan to make a lot of changes to your will, instead of adding a codicil, it might be easier to simply revoke your current will and make a new one.
Due to the nature of a will and the fact that it becomes a public document after your death it is always advisable to consult with your own solicitor if you have any specific queries or concerns relating to this area.