Lots of people assume that making a Last Will and Testament is something that only needs to be done in the later stages of life. Some may not ever consider writing a Will at all.
However, a Will is vitally important to help you ensure your legacy in the event of your passing, safeguarding your property and assets and making sure that your loved ones are properly cared for – including your children, spouse or civil partner, and other immediate relatives. For these reasons alone, it’s worth making Will sooner rather than later.
Why is it important to make a Will?
There are lots of worthwhile reasons to make a Will, but some of the most compelling include the following:
- A Will allows you to appoint someone you trust as your Executor, which allows them to make decisions about your Estate immediately following your death. This can make all the necessary arrangements much easier and simpler to organise, which gives your loved ones valuable space and time to grieve.
- If you have children under the age of 16, you can use your Will to make financial provisions for them, and nominate legal Guardians if necessary. This way, you can rest assured that their future welfare is always secure.
- If you have any financial or legal dependants (whether they’re friends or relatives), having a Will allows you to make provisions to bequeath an appropriate part of your Estate to them upon your passing.
- You may be able to use certain provisions in your Will to save your family from paying unnecessary Inheritance Tax.
Above all, a properly drawn up Will can give you proper peace of mind. You’ll be able to make provisions for your partner and immediate family, and rest safe in the knowledge that your wishes will be carried out, and your assets divided accordingly – including your personal possessions, bank accounts, cash, investments, pensions, and property.
If a valid Will is not in force at the time of your death, your Estate will instead default to the rules of Intestacy. Intestacy requires an Administrator to act on behalf of your Estate, and may require a ‘Letter of Administration’ to serve as proof that they have the legal right to deal with your Estate.
What is Intestacy?
sets out the standard legal procedure for dividing a person’s Estate if that person dies without leaving a valid Will. It primarily ensures that your Estate will be passed on to your spouse and blood relatives. According to the law in England and Wales, this includes your spouse and children (both direct relatives and any you’ve legally adopted), your siblings (whether full blood or half siblings), as well as your uncles and aunts (full blood or half blood) and your parents and grandparents.
However, Intestacy is not necessarily the most desirable option in most cases, since it does not legally recognise step children, and has stricter requirements for unmarried cohabitees to become Beneficiaries than it does for married couples. This means that if you are not married to your partner at the time of your death, they may encounter significant obstacles to becoming Beneficiaries of your Estate, and may even be denied certain (or all) assets as a result.
It’s not unheard of for these sorts of situations to result in financial hardship and distress for the loved ones concerned. What’s more, it can even result in your Estate passing to family members with whom you may have become estranged, or others whom you would not have knowingly chosen to benefit. Finally, intestacy does not always distribute assets in the most tax efficient way.
A properly drafted Will is the best way to mitigate the risks of these sorts of scenarios. A specialist Probate Solicitor can ensure that your wishes are honoured to the letter, so that you can conclusively identify the intended Beneficiaries of your Estate beyond all legal doubt.
Why use a Solicitor to write your Will?
The specialist skills and expertise of a professional Solicitor is the safest and most reliable way to ensure that your wishes are properly recorded, communicated and carried out to the letter. Most importantly, a Solicitor is best equipped to help you ensure that there is no confusion as to who should benefit from your Estate, avoiding potentially costly and distressing disputes further down the line.
A Solicitor can also help you manage any complicating factors relating to your individual family situation, or that of your assets. Second marriages are one example that can present complex legal dilemmas concerning spouses and children, and a Solicitor can help you navigate the difficulties associated with these sorts of situations, enabling you to reach a satisfactory outcome.
It’s also wise to consult a professional Solicitor if you possess any complicated assets like businesses, overseas properties, or multiple investments like bonds, pensions, stocks or ISAs. Only your known assets are divided when apportioning your Estate, so a Solicitor can help you ensure that none of these assets fail to be accounted for through omission (which can sometimes prevent your chosen Beneficiaries from claiming them).
During our , we’ll take the time to go through all aspects of the probate process with you (including your assets and intended Beneficiaries) so that we can devise an inheritance solution that’s best for you.
Our expertise also allows us to make recommendations on the most efficient way to account for Inheritance Tax through the provisions in your Will.
What is a DIY Will and should I use one?
Recent years have seen a gradual rise in the availability of ‘DIY Wills’, which is a catch-all term used to refer to generic cookie-cutter documents that are advertised on the Internet at suspiciously low prices. Unfortunately, these often create more problems than they solve.
There are several key reasons for this, but they all link back to the fact that the average DIY Will typically contains a broad range of unpredictable flaws and shortcomings, which is a serious problem in an area where even the slightest ambiguity can result in lengthy legal disputes. Some of these flaws include (but aren’t limited to:)
- They may not ensure that your instructions are properly carried out
- They may omit certain assets of yours, whether physical or financial
- They may fail to account for situations in which the Executor or Beneficiary dies before the person making the Will
- They may be operating to an outdated or misunderstood set of Inheritance Tax rules
For these reasons alone, it’s vital to ensure that your Will is properly prepared and regularly updated by a qualified professional Solicitor. This can help to avoid unnecessary confusion, minimise disputes, and ensure that your legacy is properly carried out.