Wills and Why You Need One
We know that most people think they only need a Will when they get old. Let us explore with you the many reasons why everyone needs a Will.
It is never too soon to arrange your Wills
It is often thought you only need to arrange a Will when you are older, but it is never too soon and the earlier it is done the better.
We passionately believe everyone should have a Will in place as soon as they can, especially if you have a family or a partner and own assets. Whatever your age or circumstances, everyone needs one – and, vitally, it needs to be right for you.
We know considering your death or that of a loved one is hard and very emotive for many. But it is even harder to imagine the ones you love may end up with nothing after you pass away or your children are not looked after by the right people. Many do not realise that without a Guardian in a Will, social services decide where your child (under 18) will live which can even mean temporary foster care.
There are so many reasons why having the right Will in place is so important. Also known as Estate Planning, it puts in place essential things to protect what you and others have worked so hard for. Often a simple off-the-shelf Will is not enough.
We have 20 years’ experience of working with clients with a variety of differing personal situations – whether you are married, unmarried, in a same-sex relationship, remarried, single, have children or other loved ones and many other combinations that make up modern family dynamics.
WILL vs NO WILL
To help you decide whether you need a Will, consider the following:
WITH A WILL
- You decide who inherits your estate (such as money, land, property).
- You decide who doesn’t inherit anything.
- You choose who manages your estate when you die.
- You choose who manages your money as your Trustees.
- You choose who will care for your children.
- You decide what your partner gets if you are unmarried.
- You make provision for your pets.
- You can ensure any gifts, whether that is money or other items of financial or personal value, go to who you wish.
- You can make gifts to charities that you value.
WITHOUT A WILL
- The Law of Intestacy decides who gets what, meaning those you love may get nothing and others may get everything.
- No Executors to manage your estate; the Law decides who does (costly).
- No Trustees to manage your money; the Law decides who does (costly).
- Social services decides who looks after your children.
- If you are not married, your partner gets nothing.
- Your wishes for your pet are not expressed.
- There are no gifts to anyone, including charities.
Law of Intestacy
When there is no Will in place, this is also known as ‘dying Intestate’ and the Law of Intestacy determines who benefits from your estate. When your estate falls according to the Law of Intestacy, it adds time, cost and stress to an already difficult situation and you may not get the result you were hoping for. In some circumstances, it can result in an unnecessary Inheritance Tax bill.
“Too many people die without a Will so their estate passes in a completely different way to how they assumed it would or wanted.”
A salutary tale from one of our clients
Samantha was married to Tom for seven years, but she suffered physical and mental abuse throughout. They had no children. She finally managed to escape the marriage and relocated to another part of the country to rebuild her life. She remained in hiding from her husband, too frightened to divorce him in case he found out where she lived. She regained her confidence and along the way met some wonderful friends who she relied on and valued greatly.
She retrained and started a new career, accruing a comfortable estate of £863k by the time she died aged 77.
Samantha never wrote a Will, although she had always intended to do so. Sadly, because she never divorced, her entire estate passed to her estranged and abusive husband through the Law of Intestacy. We feel sure that she would have wanted her friends to have benefitted instead.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can my daughter / son / brother / sister claim on my estate?
In England and Wales, the Will law enables us to leave whatever we wish to whomever we wish in our Will. However, running alongside that law is another law called the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. This was designed to enable those who feel they have a legitimate claim to have a platform to contend. This Act is restricted to several groups and not everyone who thinks they have a claim can use this Act. Many aspects are taken into consideration such as their relationship to you, their earning capacity, who you chose to leave your inheritance to instead, to name just a few. Please discuss this with us if you feel this could be relevant to you.
I don’t want my ex to have our children if I die, how can I do that?
This is a difficult and very emotive conversation that needs to be discussed. If your partner is the other legal parent of your child, the law says that the child will pass to them if you were to die and, of course, vice versa. However, there are provisions we need to make in your Will to show your wishes and intentions and, of course, we need to nominate who will be Guardian to your minor children should your ex-partner predecease you and you subsequently pass away.
Does a Will stop probate?
No, we are afraid it does not. A Will ensures that you enter the process of obtaining a Grant of Probate whereas, without a Will, you enter ‘Letters of Administration’. If there is no property involved at death and the liquid assets are under the ‘probate threshold’ of the institution that holds them, you may not need to get a Grant of Probate. However, many companies require a grant before they release the asset to the Executors of the Will.
My mum will get my children if we both die, won’t she?
No, not necessarily. The only way you can determine who looks after your minor children if you and the children’s other parent were to die is to appoint Guardians in your Will. If you have not made a guardianship appointment, it will be social services who make that decision for you, which may not be the choice you would make, and it could mean a temporary stay in foster care for your children.
The State gets it all if we die, doesn’t it?
There is a statutory law called the Law of Intestacy which will determine where your assets pass if you were to die without a Will. There are many levels to reach before The Crown receives your estate but there is always that possibility…
I’m estranged from my mum / dad and no way do I want them to get anything if I die – what do I do?
If you have no Will then the Law of Intestacy will apply. If you are not married and have no children, your estate will pass to your parents, whether you like it or not. So, the first task is to write a Will. Once you have a Will directing your assets to others, your parents will not have a claim on your estate, unless they are financially dependent on you in any way. Make sure that your Will is professionally written (i.e. that it complies with the Wills Act 1837).
Homemade Wills can often be proven as invalid and, if deemed so, again you have no Will and your parents may inherit. Also, make sure that you have made adequate provision in your Will if you are married / have children so that you direct where your estate would pass if you and your spouse / children all died together. If you do not, then the Law of Intestacy will apply again and your parents will inherit.
What Happens Now?
“It’s never easy talking about death, but we gently guide you through this – making sure those you love get what you want them to have.”
Feel free to contact us for an in-depth discussion about your options, our fees, the process or anything else. Just pick up the phone or send us an email. We know from previous client experience that you will be pleased you did.