Why should I Make a Will?
Making a Will allows you to specify and plan what should happen to your assets after your death. By planning in advance, you can establish who you wish to benefit from your estate when you die, who shouldn’t benefit from your estate, minimise any inheritance tax payable and reduce the risk of a dispute.
Making a Will also gives you the opportunity to express your wishes for your funeral arrangements or medical treatment should you become incapable of making those decisions
Do I need a will?
The simple answer is Yes. You may however believe that you do not have any assets to leave. Your assets do not just include the money you have in the bank.
Your Property, death in service benefits, pension payments, death gratuities as well as insurance polices are included within your estate.
Dying without making a will
When a person dies without leaving a valid will, their property (the estate) must be shared out according to certain rules.
These are called the rules of intestacy. A person who dies without leaving a will is called an intestate person.
Only married or civil partners and some other close relatives can inherit under the rules of intestacy.
- Your spouse does not automatically receive all of your assets.
- If you were not married but in a relationship, without a Will it would be very unlikely that your partner would be entitled to any of your assets at all.
- Any other wishes to benefit other individuals (eg friends) and organisations (eg charities you support) will not receive anything even if you would have liked them to.
- The inheritance tax payable on your estate may be higher than it could have been had you made plans.
- There may be further problems if your personal and financial circumstances are complicated: for example, if you are paying Maintenance to a spouse or have assets tied up within a family business, or own assets overseas (eg a holiday home).
Married partners or civil partners inherit under the rules of intestacy only if they are actually married or in a civil partnership at the time of death.
So if you are divorced or if your civil partnership has been legally ended, you can’t inherit under the rules of intestacy.
What about my common law partner?
There is no such legal term as a common law Partner.
If you and your partner are not married or legally united in a civil partnership, your partner will not automatically be entitled to any of your assets when you die – no matter how long your relationship has been – unless you make a will.
What about my Children or partner’s children?
Children includes any adopted children or illegitimate children who can prove their parentage, but not stepchildren (unless you have adopted them).
What goes into a Will?
Some typical provisions include
Who do you wish to be the Executors and Trustees of your estate? The Executors who are the persons responsible for winding up your affairs and ensuring that your wishes are carried out.
Should you have any children under the age of 18 you may wish to consider appointing a Guardian of your Will.
Legacies are gifts made in a will. They can be gifts of:
- Specific items – such as a picture, piece of jewellery, item of furniture or a collection.
- Money – for example, to relatives, friends, godchildren or charities
- Property – such as land or a house.
Legacies may be left to recipients as outright gifts, or be made conditional on reaching a specified age. They may also take the form of "settled legacies", where the gift is held in trust for one or more individuals.
The "residue" is the remainder of your estate that is left after debts, expenses, taxes and legacies have been paid out by the executors.
If there are no surviving relatives who can inherit under the rules of intestacy, the estate passes to the Crown. This is known as bona vacantia.
The Treasury Solicitor is then responsible for dealing with the estate. The Crown can make grants from the estate but does not have to agree to them.