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Why Make a Will

10 Reasons to Make a Will.

Recent research has shown that 54% of adults in the UK have not made a Will.  As you would expect, the Wills, Trusts & Estates team at FSP advise that everyone should make a Will and so, given this surprising statistic, Catherine Ramsbottom lists 10 reasons why you should consider making a Will:

  1. Intestacy rules

If you do not make a valid Will, the intestacy rules will apply on your death. These are a statutory set of rules which determine who will inherit your estate following your death.

Although these rules have recently been updated, they can still create some surprising and often undesirable results.  For example, if your estate is over £250,000 and you are married with children you will find that not all of your estate passes to your surviving spouse, as instead part of the estate will pass to your children upon their reaching the age of 18.         

  1. Choosing your executor

If you make a Will, you can choose who you appoint as executors in your Will to administer your estate on your death, as well as appointing substitute executors who can act if your first named executors are unable to act for any reason.  This is vastly preferable to the court rules, where the law “chooses” who will deal with your estate from a set list.

  1. Inheritance tax-free allowances

You should make sure that your Will maximises the tax-free allowances available to be claimed for your estate. This is particularly important following the recent introduction of the “Residence Nil Rate Band” where you could potentially save £140,000 of inheritance tax as long as your Will satisfies certain conditions.

  1. Asset Protection

There are often situations where it may be prudent to include a trust within your Will to ensure your assets are protected. Trusts can help with care fee planning, for example, or if you have children from a previous relationship that you wish to benefit.

There may also be family circumstances where it would be sensible to include a trust within your Will to ensure your children are able to properly benefit from your estate – for example, if one of your beneficiaries is potentially facing a divorce, has a gambling problem, or would simply not benefit from receiving funds immediately.

  1. Claims against your estate

In the UK, a testator has testamentary freedom – they can leave their estate to whoever they wish. However, there are certain categories of people who can bring a claim against your estate if you have not made reasonable financial provision for them.

It is therefore worthwhile obtaining legal advice if you think there may be a “disappointed beneficiary” who could potentially bring a claim against your estate (the most common example being where people do not wish to benefit their children or treat family members equally often for valid reasons).

  1. Cohabitation

If you live with your partner, but are not married to them, then they will not inherit from you on your death if you die without making a Will.  The often touted “common law partner” is a myth and has no legal meaning!

  1. Change in circumstances

If you have made a Will and you then subsequently marry or enter into a civil partnership, the Will will automatically be revoked. Similarly, if you make a Will and you then subsequently divorce, the Will is read as if your former spouse has died at the date of the divorce.

Also, if your financial circumstances change (e.g. you inherit a substantial sum) and/ or you have children, your existing Will may no longer achieve your wishes.

It is therefore important to review your Will following any such change in circumstances.

  1. Age of inheritance and guardianship

In your Will, you can appoint guardians to look after your children if you die before they turn 18. Also, if you have strong views about the education and future maintenance of your children, you can record your wishes alongside your Will.

You can also delay the age of inheritance for your children and instruct your trustees to hold your estate on trust until your children reach the age you choose. It is worthwhile bearing in mind that if you die without leaving a Will your children will receive their inheritance outright on their 18th birthday irrespective of their personal circumstances.

  1. Default (family accident) provisions

When we advise clients making a Will, we will invariably advise them to include a longstop (i.e. default) provision in their Will. This gives you the opportunity to say who you want to inherit your estate in the hopefully unlikely event your chosen beneficiaries (e.g. children and grandchildren) predecease you. Again, this allows you more control over who you want to inherit your estate otherwise your estate will pass under the intestacy rules.

  1. Additional Wishes

As well as dealing with your assets, your Will can also be used to set out your other wishes. For example, if you have any funeral wishes, these can be included in your Will. You can also include your wishes as to what you would want to happen to your pet on your death.  In addition, if you want to leave any personal possessions to family members or close friends, you can leave a letter of wishes for your executors documenting your intentions.

As you will see, it is hugely important for anyone whatever their family circumstances, age and assets to have a valid Will.

It is also important to receive professional advice on the various options/points to consider when making a Will and therefore if you would find helpful to discuss in further detail please don’t hesitate to contact our Wills, Trusts and Estates team on 0118 9516200 who would be delighted to assist you.