THE IMPORTANCE OF MAKING WILLS
By Richard Cussell
Director – Solicitor
With the Covid crisis still with us I have found a number of people have been focusing on the need to make Wills. This is a good thing. There are 101 reasons why we should all make a Will and I set out below a few of them in no particular order of importance but which may be of interest and which perhaps might persuade a few of you at least about making a Will. Only 40% of adults in this country make wills at present.
- DYING INTESTATE – a legal term for not leaving a Will. Invariably when someone dies intestate the costs and complications are increased not decreased. Do not assume that the law will make provision for your loved ones in the way that you intend. The intestacy rules do not do this. In a typical situation where there is a spouse and children, the spouse inherits the first £250,000 plus joint assets. As to the rest, half passes to the children and half into a Trust. The rules are arbitrary and almost always not what was intended. Indeed, in the case of an unmarried couple the survivor of them would inherit not a penny.
- GETTING MARRIED – this has an important bearing on your Will. It is an unromantic thought but marriage revokes any Will you may have made before the marriage. In any event the whole legal status between yourself and your new spouse changes. There are many tax advantages to marriage from an Inheritance Tax point of view. It is very important that as a present to yourselves you consider making Wills just before or just after your marriage or civil ceremony. The rules apply to same sex marriages and to civil ceremonies. If it happens to be second marriage and there are children by a previous arrangement then it is even more important to have current Wills in place to deal with what can be a complex situation.
- WHEN TO REVIEW A WILL – there is no hard and fast rule. However, when you make a Will it covers the situation at the time and for the foreseeable future. If there is a major change in your life then the Will may need to be updated. Divorce; children growing up and marrying; sad loss of family members; are a few examples.
- THE LEGAL POSITION FOR PARTNERS – The legal position for partners on succession to a loved one’s estate is very weak. The Inheritance Tax position is rather bleak. The Intestacy rules are worse as I have mentioned above. Without a Will the surviving partner does not inherit a penny (marriage and civil partnership does put this right). A Will is therefore vitally important to protect your partners.
- WILLS ARE VERY TECHNICAL DOCUMENTS – the language that lawyers use in Wills is tried and tested. We know that the language used is unambiguous and that it works. Homemade Wills may inadvertently contain ambiguity and may not do what you wish them to.
- YOUR OWN PERSONAL CIRCUMSTANCES – the size of your estate and the dynamics of your family are very important matters to consider. It can help you minimise Inheritance Tax. It can also help minimise the possibility of a claim being made against your estate by someone who feels they have been unfairly treated. The Inheritance Provision for Family Dependents Act allows people to claim financial provision if they have been left nothing or too little and can prove this is unfair. In the event that you are choosing not to leave a bequest to someone who outsiders without knowledge of circumstances might think should benefit careful thought needs to be given to defend the position you are taking.
Will making is not an onerous enterprise. Nor dare I say is it terribly expensive. We are always happy to see people for an initial free of charge interview and without obligation in order to help make a plan.