Making a will
It’s easy to put off making a Will, however, you should never underestimate the importance of doing so. This apparently insignificant document can have enormous bearing on your family after you’re not here to look after them.
If you die without a Will your assets are distributed according to the law rather than how you may like them to be and this could mean that your partner receives less, or that your assets may go to family members whom you may not wish to benefit.
There are many good reasons for making a will:-
- You can decide how your assets are shared out and ensure those family members, friends or even charities that you want to benefit do.
- If you are not married or in a civil partnership your partner will not inherit automatically – by making a Will you can ensure that your partner is provided for.
- If you have children you can appoint a guardian so that arrangements such as where and with whom they will live can be made
- You can appoint your own executor who you know and trust to deal with your affairs after your death.
- You can minimise any tax liabilities that your estate may incur.
- You can plan for any care home fees that you may need to pay in the future and which may eat away a substantial part of your estate.
- A Will is also a final indication of your wishes and takes away any uncertainty about what you want to happen, in many ways this takes away some of the stress of dealing with a persons estate as your executors know they are carrying out your last wishes
What happens if you don’t have a Will?
If you do not have a Will you die Intestate (this is a technical term used in Law for someone who dies without a Will). There are rules for deciding who inherits your assets depending on your financial circumstances. The following provisions apply only in England and Wales, the law differs in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
If you are married or in a civil partnership and your estate is worth £250,000.00 or less
Everything goes to your husband, wife or civil partner.
If you are married or in a civil partnership and your estate is worth over £250,000.00
Your husband, wife or civil partner will not automatically receive everything, although they will receive
- Personal items, such as household items and cars but nothing used for business purposes.
- £250,000 free of tax or £450,000 free of tax if you have no children.
- A life interest in half of the rest of the estate (on his or her death this will pass to your children or as detailed below)
The remainder of your estate will be shared by the following:-
- Children (or if none, grandchildren) will each get an equal share.
- If there are no children or grandchildren, your surviving parents will get equal shares.
- If there are no children, grandchildren or surviving parents, any brothers and sisters (who shared the same two parents as you) will get equal shares (or their children if they died while you were still alive)
- If you have none of the above your husband, wife or registered civil partner will inherit your whole estate.
If you are partners but are not married or in a civil partnership
If you are not married or in a registered civil partnership your partner will not automatically get a share your estate if you die without making a Will.
If your partner hasn’t been provided for in some other way their only option is to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. However, this is a complex and costly process which can be avoided by making a Will.
If there is no surviving spouse or civil partner
Your estate will be distributed like this:
- To your surviving children in equal shares (or to their children if they died while you were still alive)
- If you have no children, to your parents (equally, if both are alive)
- If your parents are no longer alive then to your brothers and sisters (who share the same two parents as you) or to their children if any of your brothers and sisters died while you were still alive.
- If you have no brother and sisters then to any half brothers or sisters (or to their children if they died while you were still alive)
- If you have none of the above then to your grandparents (equally if more than one)
- If your grandparents have already died then to your aunts and uncles (or to their children if they died while you were still alive)
- If there are none of the above, then to any other half uncles and aunts (or their children if they died while you were still alive)
- To the crown if there are none of the above.
It will take longer to sort out your affairs if you don’t have a Will. This could mean that your partner or children are unable to access any of your money for sometime after your death.
What you should consider
Each individual’s circumstances are unique and a member of our Private Client Team will discuss your needs in detail with you however it would assist us if you were to give some thought to the following:-
- You will need someone to be your executor. This person, usually with the solicitor’s help, gathers in assets, pays off debts and distributes the estate in accordance with the Will. This is an important and often stressful role and careful thought should be given before deciding who you wish to appoint. We will need their full name and address and we would advise that you discuss this with the people that you propose to appoint prior to doing so. We would highly recommend that you appoint at least two executors (maximum of four). All executors should be over the age of 18 at the time of making the Will. You may, if you wish, appoint Norton Peskett to be your executors.
- You will need someone to be guardian of any infant children. We will need their full names and addresses. As this is a significant thing for someone to agree to do we would advise that you discuss this with the people that you propose to nominate prior to completing your Will. We would also advise that you discuss this with close family members (such as grandparents) to ensure that they are aware of the arrangements you have made for your children in the event of your death.
- You may wish to specify funeral directions in your Will. Many people find discussing their wishes for their funeral particularly difficult and writing them down is sometimes easier. It also means that it will be easier, at a very emotional time, for your funeral to be organised.
- You may wish to consider giving a specific sum of money to someone prior to distributing your estate (i.e. a friend or relative or to charity) If you wish to do this we will need their full names and address.
- If you own a business you may wish to consider what you would like to happen to your business assets or the shares in your company?
- Do you want to give a child or other relative a right to remain living in your property?
- You should also consider what you are worth as it is probably more than you think. Take time to do this as some tax planning possibilities may arise. The things you should consider are the following:-
- Your house (please remember that a mortgage is usually paid off by a life policy upon death)
- Your Bank or Building Society Accounts
- Your insurance policies
- Your shares or other investments
- Your business interests (as a shareholder or partner is any)
- Any inheritance that you may receive
- Any lump sum that you may receive from a private pension in the future.
- Details of any property that you own with anyone else or any property that you own abroad.
- Do you wish to give specific items to friends or relatives (i.e. jewellery, antiques, pictures etc) if these items are not specifically given to anyone they will go to the residuary beneficiaries.
- The full names and addresses of the people to whom you wish to leave your residuary estate. The residuary estate is what is left after all debts and any other monetary gifts have been paid.
What we will do
You can see that dying intestate can lead to very complex problems which can easily be avoided by making a Will.
We take pride in providing an efficient, helpful and cost effective Will making service. We are able to advise you on the contents of your Will and to prepare a draft for your approval. We can come to your home if this is more convenient for you or you can give us instruction by telephone, letter or email. For further information please contact a member of our Private Client Team.
Reviewing an existing Will
Reviewing your Will every few years is as important as making one in the first place. You may wish to change how your assets are to be distributed, or your family circumstances may have changed. We would recommend that you at least look at your Will every couple of years to check that it is still an accurate reflection of your wishes.
SINCE IT HAS BEEN NECESSARY TO SIMPLIFY GREATLY MANY OF THE POINTS ON THIS WEB PAGE, THIS SHOULD NOT BE REGARDED AS A COMPLETE STATEMENT OF THE LAW. A MEMBER OF OUR PRIVATE CLIENT TEAM WOULD BE PLEASED TO CLARIFY ANY OF THE POINTS REFERRED TO ON THE WEB PAGE AND PROVIDE YOU WITH ANY FURTHER ADVICE THAT YOU REQUIRE.
Frequently asked questions
Can I appoint my spouse/civil partner to be Executor?
Yes. Often married couples or civil partners leave everything to each other and appoint each other to be executors of their respective Wills.
You will need to consider alternative executors (we advise at least two) to act on the second death (i.e. when you are both gone).
How long will it take to prepare my Will?
We can prepare a draft Will for your approval within a few days of receiving full instructions from you.
Do I have to come into the office to give instructions?
No although a face to face meeting is usually better. You can give telephone or written instructions or email us. We can, if it is more convenient for you, visit you in your own home. We will need to see you at some stage to confirm your identity.
What happens next?
We will prepare a draft of your Will in accordance with your instructions and send his to you for your approval. If you have any questions we can happily deal with these – if necessary we can meet with you again to clarify any points. We will then need to see you in the office or at your home to obtain your signature to your Will.
Where should I keep the original Will
If you keep your Will at home you may lose it, accidentally throw it away or it could be destroyed in a fire so we like to keep original Wills for our clients and supply them with a photocopy. We make no charge for this service.