If you die without making a valid Will you are regarded as dying intestate. This means that the law dictates who will receive your assets upon your death and you lose the right and opportunity to decide who will receive what and when. For many people, knowing you have provided for your loved ones in the event of your death, whether they be family or friends, provides comfort and peace of mind. It is therefore essential that you make a Will.
Some people may be deterred from making a Will as they see it as a complicated process involving a lot of technical jargon they do not understand. In fact, the process is fairly straightforward. There are a number of benefits from making a valid Will, including:
- Your property can pass to the people you choose to benefit;
- You can specify the particular age in which individuals may become entitled to your assets (for example, you may wish to avoid children inheriting significant sums of money early in life);
- Correctly drafted Wills can create significant inheritance tax savings.
It is important to review your Will from time to time. Many things change over the years and a Will made some time ago may no longer accurately reflect your wishes or current circumstances. Getting married, or remarried, for instance, may not only “affect your wishes” but will invalidate your Will.
For unmarried couples a Will is the only way your assets will be inherited by your partner. Without a Will, the rules of intestacy provide that only spouses and certain family members will automatically inherit and therefore an unmarried partner is excluded from inheriting.
What our expert Will solicitors can do for you
Our job is to make your Will drafting experience as simple and straightforward as possible. We will listen carefully to your needs and concerns and tailor our service to deliver a watertight Will which clearly sets out your wishes and leaves no room for confusion or disagreement. Our expertise includes:
- Advice about leaving money and property to your loved ones
- Arranging your estate to minimise inheritance tax
- Appointing guardians for your children
- Setting up trusts, for example, to control how your loved ones inherit your estate or preserve assets for the future
- Set out your funeral wishes
- Leaving gifts to charity
- Regularly reviewing your Will to ensure it reflects your changing circumstances
Our team is headed by Jenny Walker, a member of STEP (Society of Trust & Estate Practitioners). Jenny has considerable experience preparing Wills and resolving complex legal problems concerning succession planning, inheritance, taxation, and property. Our team also includes STEP member, David Watson, a solicitor with nearly 2 decades of experience.
Reasons to make a Will
There are endless benefits to making a Will, whatever your age or financial situation, and the following are some of the biggest you can reap simply by planning ahead:
Leave money and property to your loved ones
If you do not leave a Will, the Rules of Intestacy will dictate who gets your money and property. This may be against your wishes. If you leave a Will, you can leave money to whomever you like, however, only certain people (within a certain hierarchy) can inherit under the Rules of Intestacy.
Appoint Executors to administer your estate
After you die, someone (usually a close relative or friend) must take on the responsibility of sorting out your estate, including paying your debts, paying inheritance tax, and distributing inheritance to the beneficiaries. Because of the significance of this role, it is important to appoint someone you trust to take it on. When someone is appointed under a Will, they are called an “executor”.
If you do not appoint executors, one of your relatives must apply to become an administrator and take on the job. Only certain people can become administrators and the person who applies may not necessarily be the person you would choose.
Appoint guardians for your children
If you have children under 18, you can appoint guardians in your Will to look after them should you, their other parent, and anyone else with parental responsibility, die while they are still young.
If you do not appoint guardians, there is a risk the courts could choose someone you would not agree with to look after your children.
Provide for an unmarried partner and dependants
Unmarried partners and certain relatives, such as step-children and foster children, cannot inherit under the Rules of Intestacy. Therefore, you must leave a Will to ensure these parties are provided for after you die.
Set up trusts
Will trusts can be used for versatile reasons, including:
- Putting conditions on your loved ones’ inheritance
- Providing for minor children or people who lack mental capacity
- Providing lifetime income for someone then leaving the remainder to someone else after their death
- Paying for education for your children and/or grandchildren
- Protecting your assets from divorcing partners
- Making your estate more tax efficient (trusts attract other various tax liabilities so it is important to seek advice about this)
Preserve some of the family home
The idea of having to sell the family home to pay for care in later life can be distressing for people, particularly where they want to pass their home on to their children. However, if you live in the house with a partner, you can preserve a portion of your home using your Will.
It involves setting up a trust – after you die, your half of the property will pass into trust to be held for the benefit of your partner. While it is in trust, it cannot be used to pay for your partner’s care (although the other half can be). This enables your partner to pass at least half the value of the house to your children after they die.
Minimise inheritance tax
You can use your Will to minimise the amount of inheritance tax you have to pay after you die. For example:
- By leaving the entirety of your estate to your spouse or civil partner
- By leaving the family home to your dependants
- Setting up trusts
Set out funeral wishes
Although your executors will not be legally bound to follow your wishes, by including them in your Will, they cannot get lost and there can be no confusion about what you want. So long as your executors are trusted loved ones, they will likely to follow your wishes.
Avoid family disputes
By leaving a Will which clearly sets out your wishes and keeping it updated to reflect changes in circumstances, you can help your family avoid disagreements over inheritance or your wishes and give them some peace of mind.
Speak to our Will solicitors in Southampton and Hampshire
Tel: 01489 892101