One thing is definite in life, we are all going to die, so isn’t it shocking that nearly two thirds of adults in the UK don’t have a will.*
WHY? Well there are some simple reasons like, they haven’t prepared one because they feel uncomfortable about it, think it applies to old people or simpler explanations such as their previous will has become null and void after marrying or remarrying, they forget to update their wills once children are born or their will still include ex partners or people they wanted to exclude.
If you die without a will, intestate as it is known, you leave a huge problem for those left behind with your estate not being divided up the way you may have wanted. For instance, unmarried partners have no right to inherit anything, no matter how long or serious the relationship was. Only married or civil partners and some other close relatives can inherit under the rules of intestacy.
It is important to point out here that the intestacy laws differ in Scotland to those in the rest of the UK. So be sure to check it out.
So, making a will is not difficult, there is advice on how to do it yourself, but if you are unsure or have a complicated plan consult a solicitor.
Why do you need one, well there are some pretty obvious reasons:
The most obvious is saving stress and arguments with the family once you have gone. It can become a long and difficult drawn out process sorting out an estate.
It ensures the right people get what you want to leave them. For instance, children or step-children under 18. You should choose who will look after them, which might mean appointing a legal guardian.
Appoint an executor to make sure the will is followed, and each person get what they are entitled to.
Your Partner, the law doesn’t really recognise unmarried partners, so don’t expect anything to go to your partner if you don’t make a will.
Your pet’s welfare, what you want to happen to family pets.
Funeral planning, if you know what you want your funeral to be like, you can detail it so that your family doesn’t have to make the decisions.
Your property, ‘Joint tenant’ mortgages automatically pass to the other owner. If you’ve a ‘tenants in common’ mortgage, it’s important to say what happens to your share of the house. If you own a property overseas, inheritance laws may be different to the UK.
If you are a small businesses owner, a sole director, it’s possible that if you die without executors, nobody can authorise payments (including to staff), so your business could collapse.
Reduce inheritance tax, if you die intestate, as mentioned, there are strict laws about to whom and how your estate is distributed. There are two problems with this, first, the money may not go where you want, and secondly, it’s likely to be inefficient for inheritance tax purposes.
You pay 40% of any assets worth over £325,000 that you leave, so those with valuable houses or larger estates may face a large inheritance tax bill. Yet there are many legal ways you can plan ahead to reduce this.
Finally, what makes a valid will?
Well it should say how your estate should be shared out when you die.
Was made when you were able to make your own decisions and you weren’t put under pressure about who to leave things to.
Is signed and dated by you in the presence of two independent adult witnesses, and then signed by the two witnesses in your presence. Remember that the witnesses can’t be people who are going to inherit from the will.
If you want to change your will, you can’t scribble or add in things to the original will once signed and witnessed. Any obvious alterations on the face of the will are assumed to have been made at a later date and don’t form part of the original legally valid will.
The only way you can change a will is by making a codicil to the will which is an amendment to the will leaving the original intact or write a completely new will.
Check out our other blogs for information on other aspects of your will.
*ROYAL LONDON SURVEY DECEMBER 2018