It’s a common assumption that a Last Will and Testament is only a concern for people in the later stages of life. Some may not ever consider writing a Will at all.
However, a Will is vitally necessary for safeguarding your property or assets, and to provide financially for your spouse, civil partner or children in the event of your passing. Without one, there’s no certain guarantee that your legacy will be carried out according to your wishes, so making a Will is something we’d always recommend doing sooner rather than later.
Why is it important to make a Will?
There is a wide range of reasons why it’s worth making a Will. Some of the most compelling include the following:
- Through your Will, you can empower someone to serve as your Executor, who can make decisions about your Estate immediately after your death. This can facilitate and simplify the arrangements that need to be made, allowing your loved ones valuable space and time to grieve.
- If you have any children under the age of 16, a Will enables you to nominate legal Guardians, and make any financial provisions you may deem necessary. In the event of the death of both parents, you can have peace of mind that their future welfare is secure.
- If you have any friends or relatives who are dependant on you, either legally or financially, a Will enables you to make provisions for them by bequeathing to them an appropriate part of your Estate.
- You may be able to utilise certain provisions in your Will to help your family to avoid paying unnecessary Inheritance Tax at the time of your death.
With a Will that’s properly drawn up by a specialist probate solicitor, you can make the provisions that you see fit for your partner and family, and rest safe in the knowledge that your legacy will be protected.
If you do not have a Will, any assets you hold – including personal possessions, bank accounts, investments, cash, pensions, and property – will default to the rules of intestacy.
What is Intestacy?
In essence, intestacy law codifies the legal rules by which an Estate is divided, if the owner of that Estate died without leaving a valid Will. It allows for your Estate to pass on to your spouse and blood relatives. In England and Wales, this includes your spouse, children (including those you’ve legally adopted), any siblings (including half siblings if you have a single parent in common), as well as your uncles and aunts (full blood or half blood), and your parents and grandparents.
Intestacy requires an Administrator to act on behalf of your estate, and may require a ‘Letter of Administration’ to act as proof that they have the legal right to deal with the Estate.
However, it does not legally recognise step children, and sets the bar higher for unmarried cohabitees than it does for surviving spouses – which means that an unmarried partner is therefore less likely to become your Beneficiary under the rules of Intestacy. Furthermore, it does not always distribute assets in the most tax efficient way, which means that for most people it’s more preferable to divide an Estate according to a Will rather than intestacy.
Without a Will, part of your Estate may even pass to someone you wouldn’t knowingly choose to inherit your assets, while loved ones whom you would have preferred to become a Beneficiary may miss out on certain assets, or even get left with nothing at all. It’s not uncommon for this to cause financial hardship and distress for the friends or family members concerned.
A properly drafted Will mitigates the risks of these sorts of scenarios. A professional Will and Probate Solicitor can ensure that your wishes are honoured to the letter, and that your chosen loved ones are properly identified as Beneficiaries of your Estate.
Why use a Solicitor to write your Will?
Using a professional Solicitor, like those on our team at Farleys, to draw up your Will is the safest and most reliable way to ensure that your wishes are appropriately recorded, communicated and carried out to the letter. Most importantly, it can identify your intended Beneficiaries in a clear and legally valid way.
Professional probate Solicitors can also help you deal with any complicating factors of your family situation or assets. For example, second marriages can present unique inheritance dilemmas for spouses and children, so a Solicitor is best equipped to help you navigate your options to reach an outcome that’s suitable for you.
Similarly, if you have complicated assets like businesses, overseas properties, or multiple investments like bonds, pensions, stocks or ISAs, it’s best to consult a professional. Only your known assets will be divided when apportioning your Estate, so a Solicitor can help you ensure that no assets are unintentionally omitted (which can often pose serious obstacles to your Beneficiaries when claiming them).
During our Estate Planning Service, we’ll take the time to sit down with you and go through all aspects of dealing with probate (including your assets and intended Beneficiaries) so we can devise an inheritance solution that works for you.
What’s more, we can also provide tailored 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?
DIY Will is the term sometimes used to refer to generic Wills that can be downloaded from the internet, usually at prices that may seem too good to be true. As you may have guessed, they usually are – often, these Wills create more problems than they solve.
The average DIY Will typically contains a whole host of flaws and shortcomings that make it unsuitable as a legal basis for your wishes. Some of these include (but aren’t limited to):
- It might not be enough to ensure your instructions are properly carried out
- It might not exhaustively account for your assets (whether physical or financial)
- It might not account for scenarios in which the Beneficiary or Executor dies before the person making the Will
- It may not be up to date on all relevant Inheritance Tax regulations
This is not an exhaustive list, but just a few examples. For these reasons alone, it’s essential that your Will is properly prepared and regularly updated by a qualified professional Solicitor. This will avoid any unnecessary confusion, minimise disputes, and ensure that your wishes are carried out to the letter.