It is estimated that over half of adults in the UK do not have a Will in place. Not surprisingly people do not want to think about dying, and estate planning can seem a lengthy and complicated task. Yet a valid Will is one of the most important financial arrangements you can make during your lifetime and could save your family and loved ones a great deal of hassle and heartache when you die. A Will means that you can appoint individuals you trust to deal with your affairs and that your estate is distributed to those people you wish to benefit.
Intestacy rules (which apply if you die without a Will) pass your assets on, dividing them up in a specific order. They are intended to make sure the bulk of an estate passes to any surviving spouse/civil partner and children but it is not a foregone conclusion that your loved ones will get what you would like them to have; with family circumstances ever more complex these days it really is worth getting a Will sorted out.
Certainly when you get married, enter a civil partnership or have children these should be trigger points to set up a Will. Remember that if you get married or enter into a civil partnership any pre-existing Will is automatically revoked. This is not the case on divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership; although the gift to your former spouse/civil partner is cancelled the rest of the Will stands so to avoid any confusion and problems for the future it is always advisable to set up a new Will to reflect the change in your circumstances.
If you are not married but setting up home with a partner, it is even more important that you have a Will in place, as your unmarried partner will not get any of your estate unless you set up a Will that leaves it to them.
If you and your partner (unmarried, spouse or civil) have children, you really need to think about who will look after your children should something happen to both of you. A Will allows you the opportunity to appoint guardians and what will happen to your estate whilst your children are under the age of 18. Not having a Will could mean that you are not in control of who looks after your children.
If you are not married and have no children your estate could pass to your brothers or sisters or even your parents, which could make your parents’ estate larger than they had planned for and so incur unexpected inheritance tax on their death.
If no immediate or more distant relatives are traced, your estate could even end up being passed to the government.
Finally for those who find themselves dragged into the inheritance tax net you also need a Will to make sure that you do not accidentally subject more of your estate to 40% tax than you need to.
If you would like to draw up a new Will or review any existing Will you have in place our solicitor Liz Hooley would be pleased to help you.