What if I Die Without Making a Will?
Death is such a taboo subject that it’s not surprising that over 70% of us risk bequeathing costly confusion to our nearest and dearest by not making a Will. Most people at some time in their lives consider putting their affairs in order, but the thought often passes without further action. There are of course the normal excuses of ‘we’re too busy’, or ‘I don’t plan on dying just yet!’ But we find for many people, the reason they had not got around to making a Will, is because they were not aware of the severe consequences to their family if anything was to happen to them, as they had just assumed that everything would be OK.
However, if you care about who inherits your estate, and you want everything to be ‘OK’, then you need an up to date professionally drafted Will.
Laws of Intestacy
This is because if you die without a Will, then the Government will decide who will inherit your estate in accordance with the Laws of Intestacy. These were drawn up in the 1920’s, and are now somewhat out of date! However, these laws state that your spouse may end up sharing your estate with your children or parents. Or if you are an unmarried couple, then your partner may not get anything.
If you do not make provision for young children, then the authorities will decide who is best placed to look after them, which may be hugely upsetting and disruptive. It can also mean that your partner (if you are not married) does not automatically become guardian of young children, even though they may be the father.
If you die without making a Will, your ex-spouse, may be entitled to claim part or all of your estate in certain circumstances! Even if your ex-spouse cannot make a claim, your children’s trust fund may fall under their control!
The Point of a Will
A Will only gives away what has not been taken from you or what you have not spent. Understandably, people have reservations regarding this delicate matter, but the process need not turn out to be as upsetting and difficult as you might think. In fact, having made a Will gives you a feeling that you have done everything correctly and provides inner warmth that only comes in the knowledge that you have tied up all those loose ends.
But making sure that you have a Will is not enough; it has to be the right type of Will – one that is professionally drafted to take into account your wishes, and your personal and financial circumstances.
Amending an Existing Will
If you already have a Will, it is recommended that you review it every 2 to 5 years. Sometimes your wishes may not have changed, but the value of your assets and the law may have. As such it is very important to ensure that your Will does exactly what you want it to do; that it protects your assets and investments, and most importantly that you have taken advantage of various areas of flexibility within the law of estate planning.
The correct Will can allow you to:
- Specify whom you wish to inherit your estate, in what order and in what proportions so that you have comfort in the knowledge that your wishes will be carried out.
- Make specific legacies to family or friends or gifts to your favourite charities.
- Appoint suitable guardians for young children rather than leaving the decision to the Courts.
- Set up maintenance trusts for children to protect their inheritance until an age specified by you.
- Ensure the inheritance of your children or other beneficiaries should the survivor re-marry.
- Protect your share of the property from having to be sold to pay for the survivors future care fees, thus still having assets to leave to your family.
- Avoid paying 40% Inheritance Tax on your estate, so giving more to your chosen beneficiaries rather than the Government.