Why Making a Will is so Important
In this edition of Legal Chat, Parfitt Cresswell lawyer Anne Chambers discusses the importance of making a Will and explains the common misconceptions surrounding this important document.
What is a will?
A will is a document (when properly witnessed by 2 witnesses) that directs what you want to happen to your goods when you die. Research shows that only 4 in 10 people in the UK have made a will. 31 million adults in the UK do not have a will.
- A will gives you control and removes any doubt about who you want your estate to go to. Note that in certain circumstances a will can be challenged and therefore it is best to consult a solicitor when making a will rather than attempting to DIY.
- The aim of a will is to remove any disputes between family members.
- If you have children under 18, you can appoint a guardian to look after them until they reach adulthood.
- You can potentially reduce the amount of inheritance tax that the estate will have to pay upon death.
- You can choose who will distribute your estate after your death by appointing executors.
- You can say how you want your funeral arrangements to be handled.
- It helps loved ones as they won’t have to make any decisions if they are listed in the will.
- It is likely to be simpler and significantly cheaper compared to if you died without one.
Can I leave specific gifts in my will?
Yes, you can. You can stipulate particular items that you own that you want to go to a specific person or cause. You can also leave proportionate amounts to be spread across the people or causes in the will. For example, you can leave 50% to your partner and 25% to each of your 2 children.
Who should make a will?
Anyone over the age of 18 and is sound of mind.
Anyone who cares about their property after they die. If someone dies without a will, the state directs who inherits, under what are called the ‘intestacy rules’. These are very complicated and not straightforward.
If you are cohabiting, the law does not automatically recognise cohabitants as having the same rights as married couples and civil partners. Even if you live together for 30 years, your cohabitant could receive nothing.
With the increase in the number of blended families, wills will make it so much easier to decide who receives what when you pass away. Without a will, it could cost a lot of time and money to decide who receives gifts from your estate.
A will is also vital if you have children or dependants who for whatever reason may not be able to care for themselves. Without a will there could be uncertainty about who will look after or provide for them if you die. If you don’t decide the Court will and it may not be who you would choose.
When should I make a will?
As soon as possible. Especially when you get married because once you get married, the will gets revoked (not enforceable). Therefore, you will need to create a new one and include your partner. Also, having children is a popular time for people to create a will as they will want to leave some of their property to them.
Why don't people make a will?
The most common reason is that people have misconceptions about who is able to inherit property from an estate. You may also think that making a will is an expensive exercise: unless it is a very complicated estate the cost is likely to be comparatively modest to the position if you die without a will.
Who can inherit under the rules of intestacy?
The only certain way to ensure that your spouse, civil partner or close relative, etc. inherit what you intend is by making a Will.
Partners who are separated informally can still inherit under the rules of intestacy.
Cohabiting partners who are not married or civil partners cannot inherit under the rules on intestacy.
If there are surviving children, grandchildren or great grandchildren of the person who died and (on current figures) the estate is valued at more than £270,000, the partner will inherit all the property and belongings of the person who died and the first £270,000 of the estate and half of the remaining estate.
I don't have much money; Do I need a will?
Yes, you do. Whilst this is understandable, having insignificant assets is not a reason not to make a will. Many people don’t realise that life insurances can pay off mortgages and death in service benefits (payable on death), can mean that the deceased persons estate may be substantial if they die. A will is not just about deciding finances. It is useful for appointing responsible people for carrying out your wishes when you pass away.
So in short: whatever your age (over 18), whatever your assets – make a will. Or at least call us now for a free initial chat with a view to putting your mind at rest about what to do.
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