Why Should You Make A Will?
Making a Will ensures your wishes are carried out after you die and enables you to look after loved ones when you’re no longer around.
You can also plan for tax in your Will, avoiding unnecessarily burdening loved ones with a substantial tax bill when you die. If you own or run a business, you can make arrangements for your business continuation and business assets too.
By making a Will, you decide what happens to your estate when you die, removing the stress from loved ones at a distressing time for them and giving you the peace of mind that you’re taking care of those you love.
What Happens If You Don’t Have A Will?
If you die without a Will, the rules of intestacy decide who benefits from your estate and who deals with the administration of your estate.
The rules of intestacy provide limited protection for married couples and civil partners, although it is not always the case your husband, wife or civil partner will automatically receive all of your assets. Sometimes, other beneficiaries are entitled to benefit from your estate under the rules of intestacy who may make a claim.
Unmarried couples won’t receive anything, regardless of how long they’ve been living together.
Sometimes, intestacy rules mean distant relatives inherit or even the government.
As a guide, the intestacy rules mean:
- If you have children, your surviving spouse or civil partner is entitled to all of your personal belongings and up to £250,000, and the remaining balance of the estate is then divided equally between your children and spouse or civil partner
- If you don’t have children, your spouse or civil partner receives your whole estate
- If you have no spouse or civil partner or children, your estate will pass in a certain order starting with parents but if no parents then to siblings, if no siblings then to half siblings, but if no half siblings then to nieces and nephews. If no nieces and nephews then grandparents, if no grandparents then uncles and aunts and if no uncles and aunts then certain cousins
- If you have no relatives, your estate will pass to the Crown
The intestacy rules could have negative results, including these possibilities:
- Your children would be entitled to receive their share of your estate at 18, which you may deem too young
- Any relatives you’re not close to or don’t get on with could inherit
- A relative could apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration to enable them to deal with the administration of your estate
- Your partner of many years might not receive anything if you’re not married
- You could lose out on tax saving initiatives, meaning beneficiaries have a potentially higher tax bill
- Your business could face legal obstacles when it comes to its continuation and assets
- The share of your estate your spouse or civil partner and children inherit may not be enough and they may be forced to sell the family home
The rules of intestacy state spouses/civil partners and immediate family inherit – but not necessarily in the way you’d like them to and with the real risk of loved ones being excluded, especially if you’re unmarried. Not having a Will also increases the risk of someone who feels they should have inherited or have inherited more, making an inheritance claim against your estate.
What Should You Put In Your Will?
As your Will should state your wishes for your entire estate when you die, you should include everything that enables your wishes to be carried out and ensures your loved ones are provided for when you’re no longer around.
As a guide, you should consider the following when writing your Will:
- Who do you want to appoint as your executors? Do you want a friend or family member to be your executor or would you rather have a professional executor, or both?
- Who are your beneficiaries?
- You can have an executor who is also a beneficiary
- If any of your beneficiaries are children, you need two executors
- Who will be your children’s guardian if you have young children?
- What are your funeral wishes?
- Are there any personal items you want to leave for certain individuals?
- Do you want to make a cash gift to anyone or to charity?
- Is there anyone you want to exclude who would normally be provided for in your Will?
- What would happen if you or your spouse or civil partner and children all die in an accident together?
- What happens to your business, if you have one? How will it continue to run?
What Should You Put In Your Will If You Own A Business?
Business succession planning is important to enable your business to continue running after you die. You also need to consider tax benefits of succession planning if you own business assets.
Be sure to consider your business when you make your Will, including:
- Who your executors are and whether you want separate executors for your business and the rest of your estate? It’s a good idea to choose executors with specialist business knowledge to take care of your business interests.
- Is there a succession plan in place that covers the continued running of your business?
- You may wish to incorporate a Trust into your Will as a way of making the most of Business Property Relief (BPR).
- Do you want to make an application for BPR? This is available for businesses operated by a sole trader or an individual with an interest in a partnership or shares in a private company against which the value of the business interest will be a 100% relief from inheritance tax when you die. You need to have owned the assets for at least two years.
What If You Want To Exclude Someone From Your Will?
Whilst a Will is designed to enable you to express your wishes for your estate when you die, the law can sometimes make this difficult for you.
The Inheritance (Provision For Family And Dependents) Act 1975 states that certain individuals can make a claim against an estate if the Will is deemed not to have made reasonable financial provision for them.
Under the Act, the following could make a claim against your estate if it is found that reasonable financial provision has not bene made for them :
- Your spouse or civil partner
- Your former spouse or civil partner if they’ve not remarried, married or entered into a civil partnership
- Your former spouse or civil partner if they lived in the same house as you within the two years prior to your death
- Your children
- Anyone you’ve treated as a child of your family
- Anyone you’ve made significant maintenance payments to before your death
The court has the power to decide the outcome of a claim made against your estate, regardless of your Will. A court can choose to make a provision for the person making the claim as it views reasonable.
The outcome of any claim depends on the individual circumstances, although courts tend to view adult children who were not financially dependent on the deceased as not necessarily entitled to benefit from the estate.
It’s important you consider your decision regarding excluding someone from your Will, and if you still want to then it’s a good idea to make a separate statement which details your reasons for the exclusion as this can be used as evidence if a claim is made.
Why Should A Solicitor Draft Your Will?
Wills are complex and getting them just right is so important – a legally watertight Will not only reflects your wishes more clearly, ensuring loved ones will be provided for, but it is also less likely to be challenged by a claim against your estate.
If something is missed or not stated clearly, that can create problems for loved ones when you die.
Solicitors understand every aspect of the law and can advise you on all considerations and help you to draft it in the clearest way to help avoid disputes among beneficiaries. Your chosen solicitor can also hold the original or a copy of the Will for your peace of mind and to make it easier for loved ones to find when you die.
A professionally drafted Will be legally watertight to provide the best possible protection for your loved ones in the future and to give you peace of mind today.
Make an enquiry today
For advice on writing your Will or to discuss any queries you may have about your Will, you can contact our specialist lawyers on 0800 988 3674 or 01244 311 633 via email on email@example.com and arrange to see a solicitor at any of our branches across Chester and Wrexham.
Alternatively, you can Make An Online Enquiry and one of our team will be in touch with you as soon as possible.