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Why business owners should review their will and how to do it

24-04-2023|Anthony Gougeon

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”, wrote Benjamin Franklin in a letter almost 300 years ago, a sentiment that still resonates today. As a business owner you have undoubtedly already invested plenty of time, effort, and money into making your business successful, but have you considered what might happen to it and your employees if something happened to you? As the funding partner of choice, we want to make sure business owners are equipped with what they need to help keep their business moving, and so we have partnered with will-specialists Kinherit, pioneers of the Intelligent Will that combines quality advice and a secure handover platform, to offer Ultimate Finance clients a free consultation with their expert will-writers.

Kinherit CEO Ben Mason explains, “Everybody knows that the number one rule when it comes to wills is to make sure you actually have one in the first place, but at Kinherit we know that relying on a will alone isn’t enough: it says what you want to happen, but it gives little information on how. For example, your assets can be missed by your executors if not clearly written down, depriving your family of their due inheritance”.

And in addition to their personal assets, business owners should consider the future of their company and ensure it is protected. For example, did you know that intellectual property such as patents, trademarks and copyrights are important assets that could be listed within a business owner’s will?

So what are some the most important rules business owners should bear in mind when reviewing their will?

Business owners should have a will and business-specific will and planning

Ben shares that almost 50% of the wills Kinherit have reviewed have been found to be inadequate, with 30% containing major failings making them unfit for purpose – often because they don’t have specific business planning. He explains, “Put simply, if you have qualifying business assets your will needs to be written in a very specific way, which few will-writers seem to know how to do”.

Documents and instructions should take into account various factors such as the type and structure of your business (sole trader, partnership, limited company or other entity), the ownership and control structure of the business, its value and liquidity, the impact of inheritance tax and continuity and succession plans. In the absence of a will, the law will decide who inherits your business based on the rules of intestacy, which may not reflect your wishes or the best interest of your business.

Make sure your will-writer is STEP qualified

The will industry is not regulated, and Ben explains that, as a result, most will-writers (including solicitors) don’t have any formal will-writing qualifications. The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) has become the “gold-standard qualification body in the will and trust industry”, he says. Its members are internationally recognised as experts in their field, with proven qualifications and experience, and Kinherit recommends making sure that individuals advising you on your will are qualified by checking their directory.

Understand all options available

Many of us might think it might be as easy as choosing to leave every asset to a next of kin, but Richard explains, “Even if your wish is that simple, there are many ways to express it, and a standalone will is rarely the best solution to do so as it doesn’t offer the protection of a trust”. As with business contracts and financing, it is important to have a qualified adviser explain the full range of options available to make the decision that is right for you, your family and the future of your business.

Beware of fixed-price probate and profession probate offers

In the absence of a regulating body, will-writers are not required to inform prospective clients about any extra fees that they may charge your estate to enact your will. Ben advises, “Stipulating clearly that you do not want your will-writer to add themselves as a professional executor in your will is one way to protect yourself, and never be fooled for the too-good-to-be-true deals such as fixed-price probate instead of reading the small-print in full and getting qualified advice”.

Get your will reviewed today

Through our partnership, Ultimate Finance’s clients and introducers can benefit from a free consultation with a qualified will-specialist at Kinherit. To have your will reviewed or discuss your situations, simply visit www.kinherit.co.uk/ultimatefinance today.

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