It can be easy to assume that making a Last Will and Testament is something you don’t need to worry about until the later stages of your life. You may not even be considering writing a Will at all.
However, a Will is crucial for ensuring appropriate financial provision for your family in the event of your passing, as well as making sure that your property and assets are safeguarded. For that reason alone, it’s something that’s wiser to do sooner rather than later, so you can be sure that your wishes and legacy are carried out, and that your spouse, civil partner and loved ones are properly cared for.
Why is it important to make a Will?
There are a number of compelling reasons for you to make a Will. A few key examples include:
- The person you choose as your Executor is empowered to make decisions about your Estate immediately after your death. This expedites the process, making it simpler and easier for your family members to make arrangements during a very difficult period.
- If you have any children under the age of 16, you can use your Will to appoint their legal Guardians, and make financial provisions for their future. This gives you complete peace of mind that they’ll be well cared for, even in the event of both their parents’ passing.
- Your Will enables you to bequeath an appropriate part of your Estate to any dependants who rely on you legally or financially – whether they be family or friends.
- Certain provisions in your will may be enable you to save your family from paying unnecessary Inheritance Tax at the time of your death.
Above all, a properly drawn up Will gives you real peace of mind – allowing you to make provisions for your partner and family, and rest assured that your wishes will be carried out to the letter.
Without a Will, your assets – including your personal possessions, cash, bank accounts, investments, pensions, and property – will all default to the rules of Intestacy.
What is Intestacy?
Intestacy law essentially lays out a set of standard rules used to divide the Estate of a person who has died without leaving a valid Will. It allows for your Estate to be passed onto your spouse and blood relations. In England and Wales, this includes your spouse, any children (including those who were legally adopted), siblings (including any half siblings who share a parent with you), as well as your parents, grandparents, and uncles or aunts (whether full blood or half blood).
Intestacy requires an Administrator to act on behalf of your estate, and may require a ‘Letter of Administration’ to act as legal proof that they have the right to deal with the Estate.
It’s worth noting that intestacy is not necessarily the most desirable option for the deceased or their families, as it doesn’t legally recognise step children. It also sets stricter requirements for unmarried cohabitees than for surviving spouses, making them less likely to become Beneficiaries of an Estate divided under Intestacy. It also does not always distribute assets in the most tax efficient way.
Some of the possible consequences of intestacy include instances where your Estate may even pass to someone who you wouldn’t knowingly choose to inherit your assets. Conversely, someone who you would have wished to benefit from part of your estate, such as an unmarried partner, may get nothing unless a Will has been put in place. In some circumstances, these factors can even cause financial hardship and distress for certain loved ones left behind.
A properly drafted Will by our specialist probate Solicitors can ensure that your wishes are honoured to the letter, and that the loved ones you wish to provide for are named as beneficiaries of your Estate.
Why use a Solicitor to write your Will?
A Will drawn up by a qualified Solicitor can identify your chosen Beneficiaries in a way that is crystal clear in the eyes of the law.
Second marriages are one example of situations that can present unique inheritance dilemmas for spouses and children alike. In cases like these, you should always seek advice from a Solicitor.
We also recommend consulting a Solicitor in cases that involve more complicated assets, such as businesses, overseas properties, or multiple investments like bonds, pensions, ISAs or stocks.
The key reasons for this is that only known assets will be divided when your Estate is apportioned to your Beneficiaries. If any of your assets are omitted, it may well be difficult for your Beneficiaries to claim them.
Our Estate Planning Service here at Farleys has been devised for these sorts of cases. During these, we’ll go through all of your assets and intended Beneficiaries, and will tailor an inheritance solution that works for you.
We can also provide specific advice on the most efficient way to handle Inheritance Tax through the provisions in your Will.
What is a DIY Will and should I use one?
A ‘Do It Yourself’ Will is the term sometimes used to refer to generic, cookie-cutter Wills that can be downloaded off the Internet for apparently bargain prices. However, more often than not these Wills can create far more problems than they solve.
Some of their potential (and frequent) flaws includes:
- They may not ensure that your instructions are properly carried out
- They may not account for all of your assets (whether physical or financial)
- They may not account for situations where the Beneficiary or Executor dies before the person making the Will
- They may not account for current Inheritance Tax regulations
- They may be found to be invalid
Failure to meet formal requirements is one of the most common reasons a DIY Will can be invalidated, as well as a lack of rules relating to dependents.
For these reasons alone, it’s vital to ensure that your Will is properly prepared and updated accordingly by a professional Wills and Probate Solicitor. This will keep and confusion and disputes to a minimum, and can ensure that your wishes are properly carried out in the event of your passing.
We are a team of authorised and regulated Solicitors here at Farleys Solicitors LLP, which means we can provide expert advice on the best course of action for your individual circumstances, as well as the best ways to divide your assets between your chosen family or loved ones.
We hold these conversations with you in the strictest confidence.