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A Will is possibly the most important document you will ever own. Your Will is your declaration – and therefore intention - of whom should inherit your estate and any assets. Your ‘estate’ may comprise of property, businesses or other investments that have a monetary value.
A Will sets out your funeral wishes and appoints Guardians for children under the age of 18. In your Will, Executors are appointed who have the responsibility to distribute your estates in accordance with your wishes, which are detailed in the document.
If you do not have a Will in place, your property and any other assets may be passed to the Crown in the event of your death. This is called 'dying intestate'. In this scenario the Government will decide what happens to your property, cash and personal possessions. If you are not married or in a civil partnership, there is also a risk that your partner may not be appointed legal Guardian to your children even if they are the father/mother. In addition, your family may also have to pay Inheritance Tax (for current rates, please visit https://www.gov.uk/inheritance-tax)before your estate is released, meaning that your loved ones may have to take out a loan to settle the bill.
Without a Will your loved ones will not know what your wishes are. They will not know how you would like your estate divided. They will not know if you want to leave any item of sentimental value to a particular individual. They will not know what kind of funeral you would like.
By protecting your estate and ensuring you have a Will in place, you can rest safe in the knowledge that your property or assets will be passed on to those you care about and are divided up as you wish. A Will gives you complete choice, control and peace of mind.
Below are 3 case studies to show what could happen if you die without a Will:
Bill and his wife Carol were married with three children under the age of 10. Bill and Carol were killed suddenly in a car accident; they died intestate (without a Will).
With no Will prepared, the distribution of their assets became problematic. More importantly, their children had not been appointed to a Guardian.
The children became the sole responsibility of Social Services. Carol’s sister, who lives in Spain, had volunteered to take the children. However, Social Services decided that the children would have a more stable upbringing in care in the UK. To make matters worse, the children were split up.
The funds that Bill and Carol left behind (from their life assurance policies and proceeds from the sale of their home) were subject to an inheritance tax bill of £50,000. After funeral expenses, debts and taxes had been paid, the balance remaining was placed in a trust for the future benefit of the children.
The children remain the responsibility of Social Services until they reach 18 years old. At this time any monies left in the trust fund will be given to the children.
Pete and Louise had been living together for 5 years when Pete died in a skiing accident. Pete had not written a Will and because Pete and Louise were not married, Pete’s half of the house went to his next of kin (in this case it was his parents).
Louise had always got on well with Pete's parents, but she was shocked when they forced her to sell the property so that they could access their share of the equity. This meant that Louise had to move out of her home into rented accommodation as she was not able to afford the mortgage on her own.
Due to the fact that Louise and Pete were not married, she was not entitled to anything. If Pete had made a Will, he could have made provisions for Louise’s future.
Martin died of a heart attack leaving his wife Gemma, two children and no Will.
Intestacy laws dictate that if you die without a Will (assuming that you are married and earn less than £250,000 per year), your estate is automatically passed to your spouse.
In Martin’s case, his total estate was valued at £150,000 and therefore Gemma was entitled to all of Martin’s estate which was tied up in the family home. Gemma remained in the property and eventually got remarried. Unfortunately, this marriage ended in divorce, which resulted in her losing half of the house in the divorce settlement.
As a result Martin and Gemma’s children only stand to inherit half of the estate left when Martin died. If Martin had made a Will, he could have protected his share of the estate for his own children but instead lost it to a man that he had never even met.
52% of the UK population currently do not have a Will in place*. This means that in the event of death, a lengthy legal case could follow in order to distribute your estate. In the event of your death (with no Will in place), your assets will be distributed by the authorities according to the Laws of Intestacy.
Making a Will is sometimes considered a job for tomorrow – but tomorrow may be too late. Especially when property or other investments are concerned, it is worth making sure that you have a valid, up-to-date Will at all times. Now is the ideal time.
It is possible to write a Will yourself but it is advisable to seek the assistance from a professional that understands the law and can give you tailored advice on your circumstances. We work with a specialised law firm who are experts in this area. Once you have the basics of your Will planned out, you will need to think about where you wish your assets to go upon the event of death.
What should be included in your Will?
*Source: www.willaid.org, Will Aid Survey 2014
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