WHY DO I NEED A WILL?
Writing a will allows you to ensure that your assets are distributed and that your affairs are managed according to your wishes. As the person writing the will (the ‘testator’) you get to name people (the ‘beneficiaries’) that you would like to receive a share of your estate and also name ‘executors’, the individual or individuals that will administer your estate through the probate process. If you have any children under 18, you may also make guardianship arrangements.
Putting this information down in a legal document will help to prevent confusion for loved ones, and prevent your assets defaulting to the crown if no heir can be found (more on that later). Naming your executors also prevents the necessity for a state appointed Public Trustee to administer your estate. You can also use your will to specify and provide for your funeral arrangements, lifting the burden from those you leave behind.
AT WHAT AGE SHOULD I HAVE A WILL?
Unless you are on active military service, the minimum age that you can make a will is 18. Beyond that, you can legally make a will at any age. Despite this, it’s something that many people put off, maybe because they feel that they are too young to have to worry about making a will. We advise addressing the issue sooner rather than later. It is especially important if you have dependent children to make provision for them in the event of something happening to you. This will ensure they are well provided for, and that they have the up-bringing that you have in mind for them.
No one deliberately lands their loved ones with a difficult and disadvantageous probate situation, and yet we see these unfortunate circumstances arise all the time, as people leave it too late to put their affairs in order.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THERE’S NO WILL?
If you pass away without having made a will, you will be viewed to have died ‘intestate’. In this situation, the first £250,000 of your estate will pass to your spouse or civil partner if you have one, with the remaining assets, if there are any, divided among your offspring, even if they are still small children. If you have no civil partner or spouse your assets go to your offspring. If you have no offspring your estate will pass to a less proximate family member in this priority order:
A direct descendant: grandchild, great grandchild etc.
A parent of the deceased
A sibling of the deceased
A half-sister or half-brother of the deceased
A grandparent of the deceased
A first cousin who shares 2 grandparents with the deceased
A half cousin who shares 1 grandparent with the deceased
In cases where no heir is identified, your estate passes to the Crown.
This arbitrary, default legal backstop will be the fate of your estate should you not set down your intentions in a well-written will.
The rules are intended to be fair, but they may not suit you. For example, if your spouse or civil partner and children survive you, your assets will be divided among them in fixed proportions that may not suit your family.
It is a common belief that, if you are married or in a civil partnership, your spouse or civil partner will automatically inherit everything you own when you die. In fact, the law sets out rules that determine how your assets are to be divided if you should die without leaving a Will.
Equally, the rules make no provision for a partner if you are not married or in a civil partnership, even if you have lived together for many years. It is possible to write your own Will, but it is a good idea to seek professional advice.
Your Will is important, and professional advice will ensure that your Will complies with all the legal requirements. A professional service also ensures that your instructions are clear and will be followed after your death, and that you have taken advantage of any tax reliefs available to you.
CAN I MAKE MY OWN WILL? WHAT CAN GO WRONG?
Some DIY projects are easier to get right than others. When we come to judge the results, sometimes they exceed expectations, sometimes they’re a downright disaster, but most of the time, there’s that nagging suspicion that a professional could have done a better job.
Creating a will can be a complicated and intimidating process, so it is important to understand the risks involved when creating your own. While it is possible to make your own will, it is highly recommended to seek out the help of an experienced Will writer.
We can help you craft a legally binding document that is tailored to your specific needs and wishes. If the will is not properly written, it may be deemed invalid in court and your wishes may not be honored. Additionally, if the will is not kept up to date, it may not reflect your current wishes. It is important to regularly review your will and make any necessary changes or updates to best ensure your wishes are honored.
WHAT IS A POTENTIAL PROBLEM WITH A DIY WILL?
A will can be defended as being the true last will and testament of the deceased if there is evidence to prove that the deceased was of sound mind, free from undue influence, and had no obligation to financially support the claimant after their death.
These are actually very difficult points to prove without impartial professional file notes to provide additional detail of the advice the Testator was given at the time they made their will – i.e. the documentation that comes with having had the will drawn up by a professional. It is this supporting evidence that helps to protect a professionally written will from any malicious challenges.
WHEN DO I NEED TO UPDATE MY WILL?
Time can bring many changes with regards to your circumstances, the circumstances of your beneficiaries, your sentiments regarding the distribution of assets or your wishes surrounding your funeral arrangements. If changes do occur, it’s time to update your will accordingly. That way, you enable your will to remain relevant, appropriate and in line with your current wishes.
WILL MY CURRENT WILL BECOME INVALID IF I GET MARRIED?
In most situations yes! When it comes to marriage, it is important to understand that a current Will may become invalid if you decide to get married. This is because marriage often revokes a Will unless it was specifically stated in your Will that you were in contemplation of marriage at that time. Therefore, it is important to review your Will and make updates if necessary before or after getting married. If you are contemplating marriage when making your Will please inform us as this is the difference between your Will being revoked or still valid after marriage.
WHAT HAPPENS TO MY WILL IF I LEAVE SOMETHING TO SOMEONE AND THEY DIE BEFORE I DO?
If a beneficiary dies before the testator, that inheritance is said to have ‘lapsed’. The assets intended for that beneficiary then become part of the ‘residue’ of the estate, and if no provision is made for that residue, the assets pass to the crown in accordance with intestacy procedure.
If, as testator, you become aware of the death of one of your beneficiaries, it makes sense to amend your will in order to redistribute the assets that you intended to leave to them.
WILL MY CURRENT WILL BECOME INVALID IF I GET DIVORCED?
Divorce doesn’t revoke a Will, nor does it mean your Will from before you were married comes back into effect. Your current Will remains valid, but for the inheritance purposes, your ex-partner is treated as if they died when your marriage or civil partnership dissolved.