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To a great many of us the only experience we have had in respect of a Will is in a TV drama where the dusty old solicitor sits behind his heavy desk reading out the deceased’s Will.
Real life isn’t like this at all!
It is a fact that around 27 million adults in England and Wales do not even have a Will. They will die intestate. This means that their estate will be divided according to the rules of intestacy. These are rules set out by the Government as a ‘one size fits all’ Will. Everyone over the age of 18 should have a Will.
Why not buy an off-the-shelf, Do it Yourself Will?
Templates for DIY wills are cheap and easy to find – you can get them online or from stationery shops. But it isn’t always a good idea to write your Will yourself. A DIY Will can lead to uncertainty and may not result in the outcome you wanted. It might not even be valid which means the rules of intestacy would apply – and by the time your loved ones discovered this it would be too late!
It is important that you consult someone who is qualified so they can give you all the advice you need to write and execute your Will.
Legacy Legal Services provides a Will writing service second to none. Our solicitor, Andrew Revitt, has over 25 years’ experience as a high street practitioner, and he is happy to visit you in your home – or even speak to you on the telephone – to advise you about your Will and take your instructions.
So, why You Should Make a Will?
There is only one way to be in control of what happens to your estate when you die and that is to make a Will.
- Having a valid Will means that you will not die ‘Intestate’: Your estate will be distributed the way you wish it to be and not according to the rules of intestacy.
- You decide who is going to deal with your estate after your death (your Executors) by appointing the people you trust.
- You decide how your children are going to be cared for and by whom by appointing a Guardian or Guardians if you should die before they reach the age of 18.
- Your Will makes it easier for the people you have left behind to administer your estate with a Grant of Probate.
If you already have a Will
You may already have a Will, but is it up to date? It is important that you review your Will regularly. Beneficiaries’ circumstances change: they marry, have children, die. Or there may be circumstances where you no longer wish a beneficiary in your Will to benefit after your death. Maybe your Executor has died, in which case you will need to amend your Will.
Your own circumstances may have changed
You yourself may have married or divorced. When you marry, any existing will is automatically revoked (cancelled). It is no longer valid. If you do not make a new one, when you die you do so intestate, and the rules of intestacy decides how your assets are divided.
If your marriage is ended by divorce or annulment your Will is not void or invalid. What happens is that any gift to your former spouse takes effect as if he or she had died on the date your decree became absolute. That usually means the gift falls back into residue for the benefit of the residuary beneficiaries. Of course, if you had left everything to him or her, then the effect is as if you had died intestate.
Similarly, if by your will you had appointed your spouse as an executor or trustee, the Will still takes effect as if he or she had died on the date the decree became absolute.
Even if you had appointed him or her as trustee of a trust for the benefit of the children of both of you, or as a guardian of a child or children, the trust fails.
What dying intestate means: –
If you die without having written your Will your estate will be governed by the rules of intestacy. Here is what will happen to your estate in a nutshell:
I have not made my will and therefore I leave the following to my loved ones:
- To my family I leave the frustration and expense of having to deal with my affairs together with the financial hardship that will be an inevitable result.
- If my partner has predeceased or is unable to care for my children I give Social Services the authority of Guardianship and the power to choose who will look after them and how – even to the school they attend.
- I really wanted to leave my jewellery to my best friend but that won’t happen now. Not to mention my car that I would have liked my brother to have had.
- To my spouse I leave some but probably not all of everything I own.
- To my children I leave the remainder of my estate and give you the authority to enforce the sale of it to release your inheritance – even the family home.
- To the Tax Man I leave all the taxes I could have avoided paying if I had made a Will.
- To the solicitors or my bank I leave you the authority to charge whatever you like to sort out the mess I have left by not writing a Will. My loved ones will have to watch you probably become one of the major beneficiaries of my estate.
- To everyone else I leave absolutely NOTHING!
Things To Consider When Making A Will
When you’re making your Will, there are all sorts of things you need to consider; but the most important is what steps you need to take to ensure your own peace of mind. This means looking after and protecting the people you love when you’re no longer around or able to do so. In practical terms, you’ll need to consider matters such as how much your estate is worth; who you want to leave your property to; who should look after your estate when you’re gone; how you can protect yourself if your circumstances change and how you can protect others who may be young or vulnerable. For more details of the kind of things you should be thinking about, take a look at the list below:
During your lifetime, you’re likely to acquire savings and investments; a car, furniture and many personal possessions. You may also have a house, a business (or a share of one) or even property abroad. Together, the things you own are known as your estate and your Will can state who should receive these when you’re no longer here.
A professionally written Will takes a lot of careful thought, but it’s equally important to decide who should look after your estate after you’ve gone. You can then be sure that the wishes you’ve expressed in your Will are carried out in full. That’s why you need to appoint trusted people known as Executors to administer your Will.
If you have young children, you are likely to be concerned about who would take care of them in the unlikely event that you were to die while they are still dependent on you. So it’s reassuring to know that you can appoint official Guardians for your children in your Will.
Trusts and Trustees
Trusts are widely used in Wills, but few people really understand what a trust is. In short, a trust exists when one or more people look after property for the benefit of one or more other people.
The main purpose of your Will is to ensure your loved ones are provided for and inherit those things you have worked hard for. You will need to think carefully about who should receive what and how your estate should be divided.
When drawing up a Will, you can make three types of gifts: –
- Specific Gifts: these are gifts of items e.g. giving your jewellery to your daughter or your golf clubs to your nephew.
- Pecuniary Gifts: these are gifts of money e.g. £100 to each of your godchildren or £1000 to your favourite charity.
- Residuary Estate: your residuary estate is what is left after all specific pecuniary gifts been made and any outstanding debts have been paid.
You can record your funeral wishes in your Will. However Wills often aren’t discovered until after the funeral. Even if your Will is discovered before then it is important to remember that your loved ones aren’t legally obliged to follow your wishes.