Recent studies have shown that people aged 55 and over are 3 times more likely to have a Will than those aged 18 to 34. The 35 to 54 age bracket isn’t much better. Only a quarter of those aged 35 to 54 have a Will, despite having dependents and financial commitments.
If you are like lots of other people and are delaying or having doubts about making or updating a Will, here are some very good reasons why you should make a Will.
- If you do not have a valid Will, the law decides how your estate is passed on. This may not be in line with your wishes and the rules of intestacy will kick in, applying a strict formula as to how your assets are distributed. This could lead to your spouse having to share your estate with your children, whom you may not have intended to benefit straight away. If it were a new marriage, you may not wish for your spouse to inherit under the rules of intestacy, allowing you to make more appropriate arrangements. Under the rules of intestacy family whom you are no longer in contact with could benefit from your estate, and in worse cases where there are no living family or relatives, the Government will inherit your whole estate under the rules of intestacy!
- In England and Wales, if you are married with children, you might assume that all your assets would go to your spouse. However, if you die without a valid Will and your estate is worth more than £270,000, your spouse will only get the first £270,000 then your spouse will receive one half of the remainder of the estate and your children will receive the other half between them equally. That might not be the best solution for your family. If your assets are worth less than £270,000, your children will get nothing.
- If you are not married, your partner is not legally entitled to any of your assets when you die. At present, the intestacy rules do not recognise cohabitees. If you live with your partner and die without having made a Will, your partner will not automatically inherit any of your estate – there is no such thing as a “common law wife/husband”. Your partner may have a claim on the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. This is very expensive and a situation that should be avoided simply by making a Will.
- A Will permits you to appoint guardians to look after your children if they are under 18 and you can also make financial arrangements for their benefit in the event of your death. You can also make provision for the guardians to receive an income or capital from your estate on the basis they will be guardians for your children until they reach the age of 18 years.
- Writing a Will can ensure Inheritance Tax (IHT) is kept to a minimum. A properly drafted Trust in your Will could enable someone to manage the inheritance you leave to a disabled or vulnerable person and may ensure the intended beneficiary does not lose his or her means-tested benefits.
- A Will allows you to choose your own Executors. If you die without a Will, your closest relatives will need to apply for ‘Letters of Administration’ and in those circumstances the Executors chosen on your behalf may not be in line with your wishes.
- A Will allows you to leave specific sums or items to individuals. These can range from items of jewellery, any personal possessions you own to sums of money.
- A Will also makes it much easier for your family or friends to sort everything out when you die. Without a Will, the process can be much more time consuming and stressful and in many cases, can cause families to fall out.
- It is possible to write your own Will, however homemade Wills should only be used in the most straightforward of circumstances. i.e. leaving your entire estate to 1 person. At Stephens Scown LLP we do NOT recommend that you write your own Will. Without legal assistance, mistakes can be made which can be disastrous, leading to invalid Wills, or the wrong beneficiaries benefitting. Homemade Wills are unregulated and do not offer the consumer protection that a professional legal practice does as we are backed by Professional Indemnity Insurance and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
- Once you have a valid Will, you should review it every 2-5 years and after any major change in your life such as marriage or divorce, moving home, having a baby or if the executor dies.
- IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT YOUR WILL IS AUTOMATICALLY REVOKED ON MARRIAGE.
Don’t leave anything to chance – get in touch with Stephens Scown LLP today for further information regarding our Will writing service. Our Will Writing service offers a no obligation meeting to discuss your circumstances and at that meeting we will advise of the appropriate Will structure for you and your family.