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Making a Will
7 out of 10 people in the UK population do not have a current Will that accurately reflects of their financial circumstances and wishes for the future of their estate. If you are one of them, you run the risk of having your choices ignored and leaving your loved ones with a potentially difficult situation to resolve when you pass away.
Making a Will provides certainty, reduces worry and gives you the peace of mind of knowing exactly how your money, property and possessions will be dealt with after your death.
A Will can also make things much easier on your loved ones, allowing them to deal with your estate faster and avoiding the possibility of your intended beneficiaries missing out on their inheritance.
Making a Will can also help to minimise your estate’s liability for Inheritance Tax, ensuring the maximum possible value passes to your loved ones.
We have a team of experienced Wills and probate lawyers who work from all our offices to provide a friendly, convenient Will writing service. We can help to make sure your wishes are reflected in your Will and that any changes in the future are accurately reflected with proper amendments. That way, you can have complete peace of mind that your estate and your loved ones will be taken care of when the time comes.
Our Will writing services
We can help you create a Will that takes care of every possible issue involved in planning for the future of your estate and loved ones.
Our Will writing expertise includes:
- Gifts to members of your family
- Issues in Wills such as Guardianship, adoption and divorce
- Inheritance Tax Planning
- Obtaining Grants of Probate
- Preparation of Wills, Trusts and Deeds
- Reviewing and amending Wills
- Winding up and distributing Estates
- Post death variations and disclaimers
If you have any specific issues you are concerned about, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
10 reasons to make a Will
1. Choose who to leave your money and property to
In England and Wales, you are free to leave your money and property to whomever you wish. This is called testamentary freedom.
However, the only way you can exercise your freedom and ensure your wishes are respected is by making a valid Will. If you do not make a Will, your assets will be distributed according to the Rules of Intestacy which only allow a very narrow group of people to inherit, such as a spouse or civil partner and your children.
2. Provide for unmarried partners and step children
Under the Rules of Intestacy, only spouses, civil partners, children (both biological and adopted) and other close relatives may inherit. Unmarried partners and step children cannot inherit under the Rules of Intestacy, no matter how long you have lived together.
Despite the common belief, there is no such thing as common law marriage in England and Wales. So, even if you have lived with a partner for years or even decades, they are not legally considered your spouse and cannot automatically inherit your estate after you die.
The only way unmarried partners and step children can inherit is if you leave a valid Will naming them as beneficiaries.
3. Reflect life changes
You can update your Will throughout your life to reflect changes in your personal circumstances. You should consider reviewing and updating your Will when/if you:
- Buy property – especially if you jointly buy with someone else
- Get married or enter into a civil partnership
- Get a divorce or civil partnership dissolution
- Have children
- Start a business
- Come into wealth – e.g. you receive an inheritance, sell a business or cash in on an investment
- Are diagnosed with an illness
- A loved one has an accident or is diagnosed with an illness that leaves them vulnerable
4. Appoint people you trust to carry out your wishes
You can use your Will to appoint people to administer your estate – these people are called executors. Estate administration involves getting the estate valued, calculating and paying Inheritance Tax, paying off your debts, and distributing inheritance to the beneficiaries.
Estate administration is a vital job and it is important that the people who take on the task are capable. Any issues with the administration could lead to delays in your beneficiaries receiving their inheritance and could even result in expensive court litigation if the estate is managed poorly. Therefore, you should use your Will to appoint people you love and trust to do the job well.
If you do not leave a Will or do not appoint executors in your Will, your next of kin will need to apply to become administrators. Their job will essentially be the same as an executor except you have no control over who takes on the role and it is likely the probate process will take longer.
5. Avoid family disputes
Where money and property is involved, family disputes can quickly get out of hand. If you do not leave a Will expressly setting out how you want your assets to be divided after you die, you could risk arguments arising amongst your loved ones about how your estate should be distributed.
Contentious probate disputes where the deceased did not leave a Will can be extremely expensive with legal fees running into the thousands. It is also common for relationships to be irreparably damaged along the way.
If you leave a Will and keep it up to date, there is less scope for your family to challenge your wishes because they are set out in a clear, legally binding document for all to see.
6. Minimise Inheritance Tax
With property prices continuing to rise, more and more people are becoming liable for Inheritance Tax. Therefore it is important to conduct your estate planning with tax efficiency in mind.
Inheritance Tax could claim 40% of your estate after your tax free threshold (currently £325,000). However, there are a number of reliefs and exemptions we can help you access and take advantage of.
7. Appoint guardians for your children
Although it is unpleasant to think about, if you have children under 18 years old, you should consider appointing guardians under your Will in case you die while they are still young.
Your appointed guardians will be people you trust to take over your children’s care and upbringing. If you do not name guardians under your Will, a family judge will have to step in to make their own appointment – one you may not agree with.
8. Set up trusts
A trust is a legal instrument whereby you transfer the legal ownership of money and property to someone (a trustee) to hold for the benefit of someone else (a beneficiary).
Trusts can help you protect your money and property and make your estate more tax efficient. Some of the many ways a trust could benefit you include:
- Put aside money for children until they turn a certain age
- Control how your money and property is used
- Place conditions on loved ones’ inheritance
- Provide a regular income for beneficiaries
- Leave money safely to vulnerable loved ones
- Provide for a class of unknown beneficiaries, such as unborn grandchildren
- Bypass the probate process, allowing beneficiaries to get their inheritance faster
- Prevent assets from becoming liable for Inheritance Tax
For more information, please visit our Trusts and Lifetime Planning page.
9. Protect the family home
As people live longer, it is becoming more common for people to have to sell their family home to pay for care fees. If you co-own your home with a partner, you can use your Will to protect your share so that it can be handed down to your children or other family members after you both pass away. It works like this:
- If you move into residential care, the local authority cannot ask you to sell your home to pay for care fees while your partner still lives there
- If you die first, your share of the property will pass to your partner via a trust
- If your partner then needs to move into residential care, only their share of the property can be used to pay for care fees because your share is protected by trust
- Your share of the property can then be handed down to your loved ones after your partner passes away
10. Leave money to charity
The Rules of Intestacy do not allow charitable donations, even if you regularly supported a charity during your lifetime. Only by making a Will can you leave a legacy to charity.
Common questions about making a Will
Do you need a lawyer to make a Will?
While you can create a Will yourself, it is strongly recommended to use a lawyer specialising in Wills writing when making a Will.
Advantages a lawyer can offer for writing a Will include:
- Ensuring the Will is created in the right way to be legally binding
- Advising you of all available options to protect your assets and minimise your estate’s inheritance tax liability
- Providing the reassurance of having a trained, licensed professional handling your Will who has professional indemnity insurance in case any errors are made
How do you make a Will legally binding?
For a Will to be considered valid and legally binding, you must:
- Be 18 or over
- Make the Will voluntarily
- Be of sound mind (e.g. not be suffering from dementia)
- Make the Will in writing
- Sign the Will in the presence of two witnesses (who must both be over 18)
- Have the two witnesses sign the Will in your presence
- Not leave anything in the Will to the witnesses or their spouses/civil partners
If you later need to amend your Will, the same requirements will apply for the amended Will to be considered valid.
While it is not a strict requirement, it is usually a good idea to date your Will and any amendments. This helps to ensure there is never any confusion over which is the most up-to-date version of your Will.
What happens if you don’t have a Will when you die?
If you die without leaving a Will, your estate will be divided according to the standards rules of intestacy. This means only close relatives can inherit and exactly who your estate goes to will depend on what living relatives you have and the size of your estate.
The intestacy rules favour spouses and civil partners, then any children you have, followed by other relatives, such as parents, siblings and grandparents.
This can often present an issue where people have remarried, as children from a previous relationship can lose out in favour of their parent’s new spouse – something which may not have been the deceased’s intention.
Book an appointment with our Will writing solicitors today
To arrange an appointment to make a Will, or to find out more about our Will writing service, please use our simple contact form or get in touch with your local Atkins Hope office in Blackheath, Croydon, Medway or Guildford.