Many of us avoid writing a Will, worrying more than half of adults don’t have a Will. Whether it’s because we don’t want to think about dying or perhaps it’s too final for some. However we want this trend to change. We believe that making a will is just as much about living and should be a natural part of organising our day to day affairs.
Your Will tells your life story and that is why every Will is different. Your Will can lay out what is important to you, who you most care about and perhaps which causes are closest to you. Everyone knows that a Will is used once we die, however a will can be created in a positive way that reflects how we live and protects everything you have worked hard for, it can save on inheritance tax and to stop any family disputes.
What is in a Will?
A Will allows you to state what you would like to happen to your assets such as your money, property, investments and possessions. If you have young children you can also state who will look after them after you have passed away. By Making a Will You Can:
- Appoint someone that you trust to look after your children under 18 years (they are called Guardians).
- Appoint someone who you trust, who is confident and competent to carry out the terms of your Will (in legal terms they are called Executors).
- Leave gifts, specific items or fixed sums of money (called Legacies).
- Name the people or charities you want to benefit from your estate (called Beneficiaries).
- State your funeral wishes.
A Will is one of the most important legal documents you will ever sign. If you pass away without a valid Will in England or Wales the law can decide who has responsibility for children under 18. The law can also decide who receives your money, property, cars, pets and all of your other belongings. We advise that you seek advice if your Will is not straightforward.
By making a Will you can clarify your wishes and it gives you the opportunity to give your loved ones financial protection when you pass away. If you are a couple with similar wishes you may want to make Mirror Wills, these are essentially identical Wills, where each person leaves their assets to the same beneficiaries in each Will.
What if I don’t have a Will?
If you die without a legally binding Will, the law can decide who inherits your estate which is called the Rules of Intestacy. This can mean your estate can pass to someone you hadn’t intended – or that someone you want to pass things on to ends up with nothing. You can find out exactly who will inherit your property if you die without a will by using the online calculator on the GOV.UK website.
This covers variations in the rules for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Rules of Intestacy
When someone passes away without a valid Will they are said to have died Intestate. In these circumstances the Rules of Intestacy apply, they determine who will administer, and who will benefit from, your loved one’s estate.
Rules of Intestacy can sometimes be viewed as harsh as they often don’t allow for modern family dynamics. The Rules of Intestacy make no provisions for unmarried and unregistered partners. Basically this means that on Intestacy, the surviving unmarried or unregistered partner will not automatically inherit any of their loved one’s estate. However, they can make a valid inheritance claim instead. The Rules of Intestacy also only recognise natural and adopted children for the purpose of inheritance; it does not acknowledge step children. However, step children can often have a valid claim.
This is why it is very important to make a Will and to be very clear as to whom you would like to benefit from your estate.
Can I update my Will?
Would you like to change your will? Lots of people change their wills when they have children, grandchildren or when their financial situation changes
Your most recent signed Will is always the one that takes precedent so make sure you keep it up to date to match your journey through life. Codicils or Letters of Wishes can be added to existing Wills if you wish to make changes or your Will can be totally rewritten if needs be.
Whatever stage of life you are at – don’t delay writing your Will, it’s not all about death, it’s about showing how you have chosen to live…