This article explains what making a will is for and why you should do so. If you haven’t, you need to read on.
None of us want to think that the reaper is round the corner but the fact is that death is one of the few certainties in life. As we grow older many of us accumulate wealth in the form of money, possessions, assets, investments etc., and our personal lives can also become more complex with children and spouses for example.
It is easy to think that if the worst should happen, our wealth will automatically go to those we care about however this is not necessarily the case. Dying without a will is known as ‘dying intestate’ and when this happens your wealth is divided up in accordance with statutory provisions in a very clearly defined fashion, and not necessarily the way you may assume it to be. This scenario is to be avoided for a number of reasons.
The rights of succession show the priority given to the family of the deceased.
First line of succession:
Estate up to £250000
Everything goes to the surviving spouse/civil partner.
If there is no spouse then it is distributed equally among children or, if a child or children have predeceased leaving their own children, the deceased child’s share devolves to them (we will call this the ‘child/grandchild proviso’).
Children’ in the context of intestacy, includes adopted children but not step children.
Estate over £250000
The first £250000 (including any real property) plus personal possessions (of whatever value – think Rembrandt!) is passed on to the spouse/civil partner plus one half of the rest, with the other half shared under the child/grandchild proviso.
If there is no spouse then everything is shared equally under the child/grandchild proviso.
Second line of succession:
This applies is if there is no spouse and no children/grandchildren.
First, equally among any surviving parent/s (that is not including in laws)
If there are no parents
Everything is shared equally among any brothers or sisters; or if a brother or sister has predeceased that share goes to their child/children (that is the deceased’s nephews/nieces);
If there are no brothers/sister, nephews or nieces
Everything is divided equally among any half brothers or sisters; or if half brother/sister has predeceased their share goes to any children/children they have;
Third line of succession:
This applies if there are no half brothers/sisters or their children.
Everything is shared equally among any surviving grandparents (which could exacerbate any tax implications);
If there are no grandparent/s
Everything is shared equally among any aunts or uncles; or in the event of any one of them predeceasing their share goes to their children (that is cousins of the deceased);
If there are no uncles/aunts/cousins
Everything is divided equally among any half aunts/uncles, or in the event of any one of them predeceasing their share goes to their children;
Finally; if there are no half aunts/uncles/cousins
It all goes to the ‘Crown’ which means the Government; and if you think, with all of these possibilities for claims to the estate, it will never happen that everything will go to the Crown then you may care to look at the relevant Government Department (Bona Vacantia – it means ‘unclaimed goods’) website where there are well over 140000 such estates!
Remember that unless you are married or have entered into a civil partnership, your partner, they will not automatically be entitled to any part of your estate. If left to the state to decide, your death could lead to real financial hardship for them.
A solicitor can guide you so that you need not pay any more inheritance tax than is necessary. This is not tax dodging, it is ensuring that your estate is taxed fairly. The way your wealth is handled according to the Law of Intestacy could leave your loved ones seriously out of pocket and even in debt because of the inheritance tax implications.
Not everything boils down to money or wealth. Many people have important last wishes, from the songs to be played at their funeral, the type of ceremony performed, whether they are cremated or buried and even the clothes that they wear. Letting your family and friends know how you want to take your final bow is a real act of compassion and love, and a great way of helping them come to terms with their loss
In the event that a couple die leaving children their wills can make arrangements for them to be cared for by someone they trust and with whom they have discussed the situation with beforehand.
If you are wealthy, and even if you are not, you may have plans for some of your wealth to go to a charity that is close to your heart. The state is not going to take this sort of thing into account. You need to spell it out in your will. Charitable gifts are also tax efficient.
The intestacy provisions allow beneficiaries to inherit at age 18. This is not a terrific idea for lots of reasons, particularly if there is a lot of wealth at stake. Will they spend it, save it or invest it wisely? Will somebody take advantage? Nobody wants to pass away while their children are so young. Unfortunately, m Making a will is all about covering all the angles, even the less pleasant ones and in the case of children it is better to organise their inheritance to go into a trust fund which can be released once they reach, say 21 , or even 25 years of age for example.
Yes you do and here’s why.
At the very least you need to have whatever you draw up checked by a solicitor because any misunderstandings can be difficult, costly and time consuming to repair and may well not be able to be rectified once you have already passed on.
A solicitor will ensure that what you want to happen to your wealth will happen the way you have planned it to happen. Making a will brings clarity. In fact, if there are serious omissions, inconsistencies or ambiguities in your will, it may be invalidated altogether.
Your solicitor will make you aware of the ‘legal rights’ of those who may contest your will if they feel you have not made proper provision in the event of your death. It’s better to come up with a Will that is not going to be contested in the first place.
When making a will you need to bear in mind what may happen if your dependants or others you would wish to inherit your wealth, pass away before you do. There are strict requirements for signing a will which, if not followed can invalidate the will.
It is strongly advisable to revise your will every five years or so and especially if you get remarried or enter into a new civil partnership for example. Getting married invalidates previous wills.
This article has only touched on a fraction of the issues involved and yet really highlights the necessity of getting your estate in order. Don’t leave it to chance. Making a will is in most cases surprisingly straightforward and affordable, and getting it right in the first place by using an appropriately qualified professional will save your loved ones a lot of inconvenience as well as money in the long term.
Wills and probate is one of our specialisms. Get in touch today.