Making a will can help protect your loved ones after you die, and ensure your estate is dealt with in the way you choose.
WHAT IS A WILL?
A will is a legal document you create that sets out instructions for who will inherit your estate and what should happen after you die.
It includes what sort of funeral you would like, how you would like your possessions to be distributed, who should bring up your children if you have them, as well as other wishes.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DIE WITHOUT A WILL?
If you die without having a will, your estate will be distributed according in accordance with Statutory Intestacy Rules, which may well not accord with your wishes and people you care about may lose out.
REASONS TO MAKE A WILL.
· Naming your children’s guardian. If you have any dependents under 18, you can appoint their legal guardians. If you don’t, the decision could be left to the family courts, who may choose a person you wouldn’t agree with.
· Ensure your children’s financial future. This might include putting aside money for their education, or a set amount each year for clothing or hobbies or establishing a fund for them to buy a home. Will trust are a good way to leave instructions with an element of control over when your children receive the money, and what it gets used for.
· Provide for your dependents, including step-children. The law states that only spouses or blood relatives can automatically inherit if there is no will, so it you want to provide for your stepchildren, you’’ need to write a will that includes them. This also applies to foster children, or any other dependents who may relay on you for support.
· Protect your partner if you are unmarried. Unmarries partners aren’t entitle to anything from your estate unless specifically stated in your will – no matter how long you’ve been together, so a will ensures your partner will receive their fair share of your estate.
· Safeguard your family home. If the family home is in your name, your unmarried partner and stepchildren aren't automatically in line to inherit it if you die without a will, which means they may lose their home. By making a will you can leave them a share of the property or a right to reside in the property.
· Head off family disputes. Dividing up an estate can sadly sometimes lead to arguments among your survivors if there is no will or your wishes aren't made clear. Contested wills can be damaging to relationships among your family and can also be expensive if decisions about your estate are legally contested. A well-prepared will can help avoid these arguments and avoid making your passing even more stressful for your survivors.
· Avoid paying more inheritance tax than you need to
The amount of inheritance tax that will be charged from your estate depends on how much you have, and who you leave it to. Anything left to your spouse or civil partner will be automatically exempt from inheritance tax. Leaving property to your children and grandchildren is also likely to generate a lower inheritance tax bill than leaving it to others.
· Create a legal will if you’re recently married.
When you marry, your existing will automatically become invalid in England and Wales. According to the rules of intestacy, this means your estate could end up split between your new partner and children from a previous marriage, potentially causing arguments.
In Scotland, on the other hand, prior wills are not automatically invalidated by marriage - so if you die, your new spouse may not inherit anything if your old will does not include them.
Also getting divorced doesn't override your will, meaning your ex-partner may still be in line to inherit from your estate.
As such, it makes sense to regularly review your will, so it still reflects your situation, particularly after a marriage or separation.
· Decide who you would like to settle your affairs.
Within your will, you can name an executor, or multiple executors, who will oversee carrying out your final wishes.
Choosing your executor in advance allows you to select the best person for the task. It also gives the executor prior warning so they can prepare themselves.
· Say who you want to look after your pets.
If you have dogs, cats, or any other pets, they may also need to be looked after if you pass away, so you can decide to choose someone to look after them and put some money aside to feed them and look after their health.
· Protect your digital assets.
Digital accounts and online purchases, such as music, photographs, or websites, also form part of your possessions and can disappear into the void if you don't account for them in your will. Things like emails and social media accounts also form part of your legacy. You can decide if want the information destroyed, protected, and if the latter, you might need to make passwords available to your executor.
· Support a charity.
If you support a charity, you may wish to leave something for it when you pass away. As well as supporting a good cause, you could potentially reduce the amount of inheritance tax paid by your family if you leave more than 10% of your assets to a good cause.
WHEN SHOULD YOU MAKE A NEW WILL?
As you move through life your circumstances change, as do the potential risks and complications when you pass away.
You should consider making a new will:
· When you have an unmarried partner who should inherit from your estate.
· When you get married, and your old will is invalidated (in England and Wales) or doesn't include your new spouse (in Scotland).
· When you have a child so that you can appoint a guardian.
· When you buy a property or receive a large windfall.
· If you get divorced, as your previous will won't automatically be invalidated.
· When you want to make provisions for stepchildren, foster children or dependents.
· If your spouse passes away, and your previous will leave the estate to them.
WHY CHOOSE US?
A last will, also known as a testament, it's a legally binding document. However, if you don't prepare properly, it may not be valid.
Our Wills and Probate Department is led by Daniel Curry, who specialises in Private Client Law and has more than 40 years’ experience. We are based in West Sussex and London, and we help clients across London and the South of England. So, whether you are in Brighton and Hove, Canterbury, Chichester, Portsmouth, Southampton, Winchester, or Oxford, we can advise you with your Will, Living will, Lasting Powers of Attorney, Probate and Inheritance Tax and Care Home Fees Planning.
If you have a complicated estate, or simply want support, get in touch with us. You can call us on 03332 420691 or email any enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.