Making a Will FAQs

What happens if I die without a Will?

Apart from dealing with problems arising from the Intestacy Rules, what other benefits are there in me making a Will?

I am thinking of making my own will, do I really need a solicitor?

I feel I’m too young to make a will; what is the best age for me to make my Will?

Can my partner and I make a joint will?

What happens if I die without a Will?

If you do not have a Will, you effectively lose the right to decide what happens to everything you own. Dying without a Will is known as dying “Intestate” and the persons to whom your estate is distributed will be determined by the “Intestacy Rules”. Effectively, the law, not you, decides what will happen to everything you own. In addition, you will have had no say over who is appointed to distribute what you own. The rules of intestacy are complex and will vary depending on your circumstances. In summary, if your total estate is worth less than £250,000 and you are married or in a civil partnership, the entire estate will go to your spouse – even if you are separated. If you are not married the estate will be distributed according to complex rules and not necessarily as you would have wanted.

If your estate is worth over £250,000, the first £250,000, all personal belongings and a right to acquire your interest in the matrimonial home for its full value will go to your spouse – even if you are separated. The remainder (if any) will be split so that your spouse gets half of whatever is left with the remaining half to benefit other family members under the Intestacy Rules.

Some of the consequences of the Intestacy Rules can be harsh:

  • If you are not married or in a registered civil partnership, your partner will get nothing, no matter how long you have been together
  • If you are going through a separation but you are not yet finally divorced or subject to a judicial separation (if in a civil partnership), your ex-partner may get everything and your children, other family members or your current partner, may get nothing.
  • If you are in a second marriage or civil partnership but you want to ensure that your children from a previous relationship benefit, they will in fact inherit nothing if there is no Will providing for them where your estate is worth less than £250,000 and will inherit only a small portion of your estate if it is worth £250,000 or more.
  • People who you thought would benefit may get nothing, whether these be friends, family members or even your favourite charity.
  • Even in cases where your property may be distributed to the people you want under the Intestacy Rules, the distribution may not be in the proportion you want it to be in and there will be no provision for specific gifts of specific property, such as family heirlooms.

Apart from dealing with problems arising from the Intestacy Rules, what other benefits are there in me making a Will?

The potentially disastrous consequences of allowing the Intestacy Rules to determine who gets what from a deceased person’s estate should be enough to cause most of us to realize how important it is to make a Will. However, the making of a Will also has other positive benefits such as:

  • You control how your estate is divided up
  • You can leave specific things to specific people, including people who would never otherwise benefit, such as friends
  • You can leave gifts to a specified charity
  • You may have a reason for excluding a person who would otherwise have benefitted
  • You can help minimize Inheritance Tax
  • Unmarried partners and partners who have not registered a civil partnership cannot inherit from each other unless there is a Will
  • If you have children, you can make arrangements for the children in your Will by appointing Guardians should you die before your children are 18
  • You can record your funeral wishes in your Will so that your loved ones know exactly what you would like them to do
  • You may want to create a Trust in your Will – for example allowing your current partner to reside in your home for the rest of his or her life with a direction from you that your home is then sold and the proceeds go to specified beneficiaries
  • You can choose the persons who will be responsible for administering your estate after your death, rather than allowing the Intestacy Rules to determine who this will be.

I am thinking of making my own will, do I really need a solicitor?

While there is no legal requirement to use a solicitor or other professional Will writer to draft your Will, you should only ever really consider doing this if your wishes are very simple. It is easy to make mistakes and, if there are errors in the Will, this can cause problems after your death. Trying to sort out misunderstandings and disputes after your death may result in considerable legal costs, which will reduce the amount of money in the estate and can cause a great deal of extra unhappiness for loved ones at what is already a difficult time for them.

Some of the benefits of using a solicitor to write your Will are:

If something goes wrong, you are protected. If things go wrong, there is no legal comeback unless you have used a regulated Will writer to draft your Will. Solicitors are required to be insured against loss caused by negligence. Our work is also regulated by the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA) and complaints which cannot be resolved with us directly can be referred to the Legal Ombudsman.

You can be more confident that there are no mistakes. Using an experienced solicitor can minimise the risk of things going wrong and can avoid some of the common mistakes made by those who draw up their own Wills.

We do the complicated bits for you. The law relating to inheritance can be complicated. Our solicitors are familiar with the law and will be able to help you to make the most effective choices.

Your Will is safely stored. If you ask us to prepare your Will, we can store the original for you free of charge.

I feel I’m too young to make a will; what is the best age for me to make my Will?

The creation of a will is often delayed until later in life as people feel as though it is ‘too big’ or ‘too difficult’ a conversation for their family to have. Yet other members of the family often share these concerns. Taking the first step can bring a whole sense of relief to the situation.   

If you are in your 20s or 30s, you may feel that the need to make a will is many years off. However, in today’s world you may well have greater assets in your 20s than any generation that has gone before. For example, simple things such as who controls your social media profiles in the event of your sudden passing are a unique consideration for today’s young people. If you create a will at a young age, you are more likely to update it at regular intervals and be aware of the impact of sudden family changes on the status of your document. You are likely to become a parent at some point in your 20’s or 30’s. Ensure any will document that you create outlines who you want your child’s legal guardian to be should something happen to you and your partner. First-time buyers tend to be in their 20’s or 30’s. As you are making the biggest financial commitment of your lifetime, it makes perfect sense to use the opportunity to safeguard your family’s future at the same time.

Most people having initial will consultations with us tend to be in their 40s & 50s. If you are creating a will in your 40s or 50s, it is perfectly plausible that you may become a grandparent during your lifetime, if you haven’t already, and this is an ideal opportunity for you to consider how you propose to cater for you family if something happens to you. If you have already made a will, resolve to regularly review it to ensure that it reflects your current circumstances. It is certainly worth considering reviewing your will every 2 years to see if any amendments need to be made. If you have not yet made a will be wary of ‘horror stories’ – many of us know somebody who will recount a story of a complete family breakdown due to a will disagreement. From our experience, however, the lack of a will at all is a far greater issue. By taking responsible action to create a will in your 40s and 50s, you are actually protecting your family from these disputes later in life.  

If you are in your 60s or older, you should certainly consider making a will if you want to be sure that you have control over where your assets go at the end of your lifetime. You may want to consider the following points in considering whether the time is now right for you to make a will:

Remember it is YOUR decision

Don’t allow your will to be led by what you feel you SHOULD do. It is YOUR decision, as you are allocating assets you have worked your whole life to acquire. If you feel that someone present in your life now, such as a friend, carer, neighbour, is more deserving of a mention in your will than a long-lost/distant blood relative, it is absolutely up to you and nobody else. There are no rights and wrongs.

Think of the future, not just the here and now

When allocating your assets in a will, it is important to be absolutely clear who you want to receive what. For example, it may be appropriate to create trusts for grandchildren or great-grandchildren in a will, especially when a relationship breakdown has created uncertainty for the future.

Outline your final wishes

Whilst you might find it a depressing thought, your will is also an opportunity to outline your final send off. If you want certain music played or decide how and where your funeral should take place, this is your chance to make your wishes clear. 

Take independent, sound advice

The best thing you can do when you are unsure how to move forward, is to take independent legal advice. Solicitors specialising in wills and inheritance will have heard of every conceivable family scenario you can imagine so don’t hold back when outlining your fears or concerns. Solicitors often start initial will consultations by simply listening and giving practical advice, before moving on to legal matters.

Can my partner and I make a joint will?

While it is not possible for a couple, under the law of England & Wales, to make a joint Will, “Mirror Wills” can be used when a couple (married or an unmarried), want to create virtually identical Wills that leave their estate to each other in the event of the other’s death.  Where the couple has children, each Will can, for example, include instructions that if both parents die at the same time, both estates will be left to any surviving children. Guardians, who will look after any children aged under 18, can also be specified in mirror Wills, in the event that both parents die. If the couple have no children, then their assets can be left to another beneficiary named in both Wills.

If you both share almost identical plans for what happens after each of you has passed away, Mirror Wills can be a very cost-effective solution for you.

 

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