You won’t be surprised to hear that we think everyone should have a valid and up-to-date Will. But you might be surprised to hear about some of the reasons you need one. Our Solicitors have pulled together five top reasons to get one in place.
1. Make sure your wishes really are respected
If you die without a valid Will you are said to have died ‘intestate’ and the law of intestacy will govern where your property passes. This normally means that your closest blood relatives will inherit your estate but leaving the distribution of your estate to chance may not achieve the results you desire. For example, the intestacy rules do not provide for unmarried co-habiting partners or step children. You may also wish to benefit non family members or institutions such as charities.
Even if you have a Will, your property still may not pass to your chosen beneficiaries. The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 allows for a surprisingly wide class of family and non-family members to challenge an individual’s Will if they believe that the terms of that Will do not provide “reasonable financial provision” for them.
- A spouse or former spouse (provided they have not remarried) could make a claim against your estate under the Act.
- A child or any individual who was treated by you as a child of the family immediately before your death (for instance step children) could make a claim under the Act.
- A person who was entirely or partly financially dependent upon you immediately before your death could make a claim under the Act.
A claim against your estate causes unwanted stress and upset for your loved ones at an already difficult time, additional legal fees and a prolonged administration of your estate. It is always advisable to seek professional legal advice if you wish to exclude anyone that you think might fall into the above categories from your Will.
2. Be sure the person of your choice administers your estate
Without a Will, the intestacy rules will dictate who has the right to handle your estate. This means paying off any debts, calling in any assets and giving out what is left to the beneficiaries. This is known as ‘administering the estate’. This will normally be the surviving spouse or if no surviving spouse then normally your nearest blood relative or relatives. It may be the case that other friends or family would be best placed to deal with your affairs. Making a Will enables you to appoint anybody you wish (even if they are a beneficiary of your Will) to administer your estate.
3. Make things run more smoothly for those left behind
Having a Will makes the administration process smoother and reduces added complications at an already stressful time for your family. A professionally drafted Will shows clear intentions of your wishes and allows property to pass in accordance with these wishes. It also often shortens the administration process and potentially can reduce professional administration fees.
4. For peace of mind
Wills can be challenged for a number of reasons. It maybe that it has not been signed and witnessed properly or there is a suggestion that the person making the Will did not have the mental capacity to understand the content of the Will. It could also be challenged because the wording used is not clear enough or there is uncertainty about what the Will is meant to do.
Using a professional to draft your Will can help ensure that it best suits your needs and to ensure it is signed in accordance with legal requirements. It also can minimise the scope for individuals to challenge the validity of the Will. We are able to assess someone’s mental capacity in order to satisfy ourselves that the individual making the Will understands the nature and extent of the document. We use the correct legal wording in our Wills and are able to make sure that the individual’s instructions are their own. We also insist on all our clients attending the office (where possible, home visits are available) in order to make sure the Will is signed in accordance with legal requirements.
5. Understand the tax implications
Giving instructions to make a Will may prompt further financial planning in order to try and mitigate any potential inheritance tax liability. A professionally drafted Will takes into account whether property shall pass free of or subject to inheritance tax.