How Specific Does my Will Need To Be?

The answer is –  as specific (or unspecific) as you want it to be! Let’s take any funeral directions as an example – if you wish to include some wishes, please do so, but likewise if you don’t, simply say nothing. I have clients who include their preferred funeral director, type of coffin, transport arrangements, floral tributes, church service details, hymns and so on. Others don’t even specify a desire to be cremated or buried. It really is up to you – however, do please remember – the people you leave behind may well be grieving and not feel up to making decisions about your funeral arrangements, so some direction from you will probably be welcome. If you prefer to take a more personal approach to your funeral wishes, you may describe these in a Memorandum or Letter of Wishes, which gives your Executors an idea of what you envisaged, but is in the more personal format of a letter which is kept with the Will, but is not actually part of it. Funeral directions are categorised as “wishes” and not legal binding “orders” – so may either form part of the Will or be separate in a Memorandum.

Now, as a further example – let’s take the gold ring which you received as an inheriance from your mother and which you promised you would pass on to your daughter after your death. This will be given as a legacy in your Will and it is vital that you are very specific firstly in describing it accurately (as there may be more than one “diamond ring” in your jewellery collection. Secondly, you need to name the person whom you wish to have the item – again, there may be more than one Mary Smith!

Likewise, if you are intent upon giving a monetary gift to someone or an organisation, you must be very specific about  the amount of money you wish to give – is the amount to be given at today’s values or do you wish to index-link it so that it is worth what it is today at the date of your death? Likewise, you need to identify the person to whom it is to be given accurately. This is particularly important if you are giving monetary gifts to organisations and/or charities. You must make it very clear who they are by giving a correct title, address and their charity number where applicable.

Finally, when giving a gift to grandchildren for example – why not give it direct to them (perhaps with a restriction on how soon they may have outright possession of it by placing it in the hands of your Executors/Trustees to hold until age 18, 21 or 25), rather than giving it to their parents in the hope that the parents will pass some on to them at some point. I know we all want to think that our children will do exactly what we anticiapte they will do, but if you give something to somebody absolutely – that is then their asset and they can do what they like with it!