Making a Will is one of the most important things you will ever do for your family, to provide for them financially if you died. It is important to prioritise making a Will, and to keep it up to date as family circumstances change over time. A meeting to discuss your Will instructions should only take about an hour of your time, and we offer flexible, convenient meeting times to suit you, including evenings.
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Intestacy – dying without a Will
If you die without making a Will, your estate will be divided according to the laws of intestacy. These will probably not reflect your wishes accurately.
Many people think that if they do not make a Will, their husband/wife would get everything if they died. This is not the case. If you died without making a Will leaving a spouse and children, your spouse would receive your personal possessions, the first £270,000 and half of the balance of your estate. The other half would go to your children, aged 18.
For example, say you are married and you live in HP8 or HP9, where the average house value according to Zoopla is over £1m. You own your family home as tenants in common. In that scenario, around £365,000 would pass to your children outright at age 18. The only way to prevent your children inheriting from you at age 18, if you both died, is to make a Will.
Equally, under the laws of intestacy, your unmarried partner may not get anything, or your estranged husband or wife could inherit everything from you.
If you are a single person or a typical married couple with children, your Will will probably be fairly straightforward. Couples usually leave everything to the surviving spouse on the first death, and to their children equally on the second death. This can be either in trust for the children at a specific age such as 21 or 25, or possibly on a life interest trust for them. Making Wills for more complex family situations is discussed below.
If one or both of you has been married before, and has children from a previous relationship, you may have put off making a Will because it all seems too complicated. However, there is a good solution available which can be used to balance the interests of your second spouse and your respective children. On a second marriage, typical Wills will include a structure called a ‘life interest trust’. The way that this usually works is that on the first death, the first to die will leave their assets on trust for their spouse ‘for life’. The surviving spouse will have the right to live in the property and to receive any income generated by the assets in the estate, for life. On the second death, the capital belonging to the first spouse to die is then divided between his or her children.
This means that you can ensure your spouse is well provided-for during their lifetime. You will also have the comfort of knowing that ultimately, your capital is safely ring-fenced for the benefit of your own children.
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Many people wish to provide in their Will for a beneficiary who is vulnerable in some way. This may be someone with a disability, a drug or alcohol problem, a spendthrift, or a shaky marriage. This scenario is usually dealt with using a discretionary trust. This is a very flexible type of trust set up for the benefit of a class of beneficiaries of your choice, including the vulnerable person in question. Your chosen trustees have wide powers to advance income and capital, at their complete discretion. You would also leave a letter of wishes addressed to your trustees, setting out how you would like them to consider using the trust funds. Your letters of wishes are not binding on the trustees, but they will serve as a very helpful record of your wishes. Typically, trustees will do their best to respect the settlor’s wishes, as far as practicable.
The trust’s flexibility allows your trustees to keep the vulnerable person’s situation under review in the future, following your death. This will allow the trustees to consider advancing income or capital to the vulnerable person, if their situation permits. Equally, if the trustees do not feel that this would be a good idea, they can keep the trust assets in trust for the person indefinitely. They can also consider advancing the trust assets to your other beneficiaries, instead.
If you and your partner are not married and you wish to leave assets to one another, it is extremely important for you to make Wills. Otherwise, your partner will have no automatic right to receive anything at all from your estate. This could put him/her in a very awkward position if you died, particularly if you own property together. He or she may be able to make a claim against your estate, but this is an uncertain and expensive process.
Marriage, Separation and Divorce
Marriage revokes a Will automatically, unless the Will was made ‘in contemplation of marriage’ and it specifically provides to the contrary. If you have got married since you made your Will, your previous Will is almost certainly no longer in force, and so it is important to make a new one.
If you are separated but not yet divorced, again it is extremely important to make a new Will. Otherwise, if you died suddenly in the meantime, your soon-to-be-ex-spouse could still inherit significant amounts from you, either on intestacy or under your existing Will.
Divorce does not revoke a Will, but it does mean that, legally speaking, your Will would be read as if your former spouse had predeceased you. Nonetheless, it is still a good idea to update your Will, to reflect your new circumstances.
In summary, all adults should make a Will to provide for their assets to pass to those of their choice on death. Depending on your circumstances, it may also be possible to arrange to maximise the inheritance tax reliefs available to your estate on death.
Once you have made a Will, we can register its location for you for FREE with the National Will Register (this service usually costs £30 per deed). You can then store your Will in a safe place of your choice, and it will be easy for your executors and beneficiaries to locate it when the time comes.
If you wish, we can submit your original Will to the National Will Archive for storage. They charge £7.50 per annum to store either a single document or a pair of documents, and they also make a small charge for retrieval.
We make writing new Wills simple and affordable. Call us today on 01494 708688, email firstname.lastname@example.org or complete a Free Online Enquiry for a free, no-obligation initial discussion and a fee quote.