Wills are formal documents that contain the last wishes of the deceased, as well as the beneficiaries they wish to leave their money, possessions and property to. Wills often include funeral wishes too.
When a loved one passes away, it’s likely that you want to spend some time in mourning. However, if you’re named as an executor of the will, it will be down to you to contact any beneficiaries that are mentioned in the document, as well as to arrange the funeral, so there’s a fair amount of work to do. If you’re unsure when the will is to be released to you or when you will find out if you’re a beneficiary, read on.
How long after death is a will read?
Though it may be difficult to deal with legal issues when you’re mourning the death of a loved one, organising the deceased’s last wishes is an extremely important job.
It’s down to the executor to resolve any last wishes, get in touch with beneficiaries and make sure that everything is organised. There isn’t an official will ‘reading’ as such. Instead, the will remains secret until the testator has passed away. When this happens, the executor is contacted by the will writers and left to contact any beneficiaries mentioned in the document. There is no time limit - the executor can take as long as they want to complete these tasks. Obviously, it’s better for everyone involved if beneficiaries can be notified as soon as possible.
The only time constraint that the executor must adhere to is paying inheritance tax. This tax must be paid to HMRC within six months from the end of the month in which the death occurred. For example, if the deceased died in June, any inheritance tax due must be paid by the end of December.
In many cases, it would be more beneficial to see the will before the funeral. Wills usually contain information from the person who has died outlining particular preferences for their funeral. This could be the type of music they want, the photo that’s used on the front of the Order of Service or even what kind of coffin they want. This information might be useful for the funeral organisers and it means that the deceased’s departure is exactly as they wanted it.
Are funeral wishes in a will legally binding?
If your loved one has included their funeral wishes within their will, there’s no law that says these must be adhered to. It’s up to the executor to make any decisions regarding the funeral, though many people do choose to undertake the wishes of those who have passed.
It may be worthwhile speaking to those closest to the person who has died. They might have been told additional information about the funeral prior to death and could have some input.
Funeral wishes in a will could include:
- Whether the deceased wants a cremation or burial
- Where they would like to be buried
- Who they want at the funeral
- What music or readings they would like
- What sort of coffin they want
- Whether they prefer flowers or donations
If the deceased has a funeral plan, it’s likely that they logged their requests with the provider through whom they purchased their plan. You can contact them to find out who the nominated funeral director is and arrange a call with them. You may be able to find out their requirements this way if they haven’t left the details in their will. Simply contact the provider that created their plan, and they will be able to have the nominated funeral director call you to discuss the arrangements.
With a plan, some of the arrangements, such as the choice of coffin and whether the deceased wanted a cremation or burial service, might have already been decided and organised. Certain aspects of the funeral might have already been paid for, too. However, it’s worth noting that if the funeral plan is discovered at a later date after a funeral that’s been organised by another provider, some providers won’t refund you anything that’s been paid in to the plan.
What makes a will void?
If you’ve created your own will, you must make sure that it is valid. An invalid will can cause huge issues for your beneficiaries and could even cost them money.
Your will must be created by you and it must have been your own decision to do so. You cannot let other people force you to create a will. It’s also down to you to decide what goes in the will. No other person should dictate the contents of the document.
Finally, your will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses. These witnesses will also sign the document while you’re present. The witnesses must be over the age of 18 and independent of you. This means that they cannot be one of your beneficiaries or married/related to any beneficiaries.