CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Surrey Life today CLICK HERE

Make your will your family’s flexible friend

PUBLISHED: 09:00 25 January 2016

Jörg Lantelme - Fotolia

As the law surrounding inheritance is continually changing and few of us have a crystal ball, we are increasingly advising our clients to consider flexible wills that can cope more easily with future changes to the law and adapt to suit your family’s changing needs.

A flexible will gives peace of mind in the knowledge that your assets will be distributed in accordance with your wishes and the financial, family and beneficial tax opportunities existing at the time of your death can be considered.

So how can you set up a flexible will and what are the main advantages? Here are five key points:

1. Leave your estate to a discretionary trust

A discretionary trust is a trust which can be created in your will. No beneficiary has an absolute right to the assets within it but your appointed trustees are given wide powers to pay or apply income or capital to one or more of the potential beneficiaries listed in your will. These beneficiaries typically include your spouse or civil partner, your descendants, wider family members and charities.

Discretionary trusts can also be used to ring-fence assets for the future needs of grandchildren who may require greater financial assistance than your children.

2. Choose your trustees carefully

Only appoint trustees who you are confident will safeguard your assets and act in the best interest of your beneficiaries. They will have the complete discretion to decide who takes what, if anything, when the time is right. If any of your trustees are also beneficiaries, you should consider appointing one or more independent professional trustees to ensure impartiality.

3. Write a letter of wishes

This should provide clear guidance for the trustees on how you would like your assets to be distributed. Although this is not a legally binding document, it is morally binding on the trustees. You can keep it up to date in your lifetime without the strict formalities required of a will execution. Ultimately, your wishes will be interpreted in light of the circumstances at the time of your death such as the needs of your family and how tax legislation might impinge upon their wealth.

4. Protect your assets

Flexible wills offer some protection against claims from your potential beneficiary’s creditors, divorcing spouses and separating civil partners, thus preserving the estate for the use of future generations. They can also protect against the first spouse or civil partner’s estate being spent on residential care fees. Assets can be retained in trust for beneficiaries who are not yet capable or responsible enough to deal with the money themselves.

5. Minimise the liability to inheritance tax

Another advantage of a flexible will is that it utilises a tax provision that treats any distributions to beneficiaries within two years of death as forming part of the distribution at death for inheritance tax purposes.

This means that it is possible to use the spouse exemption or ensure that beneficiaries are treated as inheriting assets as early as possible. Inheritance tax will be assessed on your estate before the remaining funds pass into the trust but, while the trust is discretionary, the assets are not included in any of the beneficiaries’ estates for inheritance tax purposes. If the trust is kept going, on-going inheritance tax charges will only ever be at a maximum rate of 6% every ten years rather than 40%. 

For legal advice on wills and probate, private wealth and tax planning, contact Matthew Briggs or Liz Garvey in the Guildford office of Penningtons Manches on 01483 791 800 or visit

More from Surrey Life

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Surrey is full of secret hideaways and hidden gems. Slades Farm on the Wintershall Estate is definitely one of them

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The new hotel is set to open in spring 2019 and will be located in the heart of the vineyard, offering sweeping views over the North Downs Way.

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

From Santa’s Grottos, to Victorian Christmas markets and late-night shopping, we’ve covered what’s on in Surrey this season

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Whether you're looking for fine dining, pub grub or exotic dishes, eating out in Surrey has something for everyone. Here's our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Having bloomed in Brighton’s restaurant scene over the past decade, The Chilli Pickle opened its second site in Guildford this summer

Read more
Monday, November 12, 2018

Historic Royal Palaces and IMG have announced that Kylie Minogue is the first headliner confirmed for Hampton Court Palace Festival 2019. These will be her only London shows of summer 2019. Here’s how you can get tickets

Read more
Monday, November 12, 2018

Enjoy this linear rail to ramble section of the Thames Down Link route taking the short train-ride from Box Hill & Westhumble to Ashtead before walking back

Read more
Monday, November 12, 2018

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend (16, 17 and 18 November): art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

It’s that time of year when our beautiful countryside is alight with the colours of autumn. Here, we pick out some of her favourite spots to enjoy the seasonal splendour – as well as some perfect places for a post-walk refresher

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Found on the stretch of the River Thames between Weybridge and East Molesey, Sunbury-on-Thames is blessed with a village feel where it meets the water. From antique hunts to the joys of river life, here are a few of our favourite reasons to visit

Read more
Monday, November 5, 2018

Verity & Violet are Loui and Jess – a singing duo from Surrey who specialise in blending vintage classics with modern favourites. The two have achieved success in the capital, but are now hoping to attract an audience closer to home

Read more
Friday, November 2, 2018

With the Christmas celebrations seemingly starting earlier every year, it all feels a little too ‘soon’ sometimes, but what if you want to look your best for Christmas & New year celebrations and are considering having cosmetic non-surgical procedures? The Bella Vou Pantiles Clinic offers surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures and treatments from a purpose-built private clinic in the heart of Royal Tunbridge Wells

Read more
Thursday, November 1, 2018

Living in England’s most densely wooded county, it’s always a pleasure to witness Surrey donning its autumn finery. Here’s some of the best places to do just that - plus a few pub pit stops to enjoy on route!

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

We are regularly reminded of the high cost of housing with statistics revealing that only one in three millennials will be able to afford their own home during their lifetime and that most will remain in the category known as Generation Rent

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search