• More than half of adults in the UK do not have a Will.

    If you do not have a Will the law of Intestacy applies, meaning the law decides how your estate will be distributed, and this may not be in the way you would have wished.

    Most people believe that if you die leaving a spouse, your spouse will inherit everything. It can come as quite a shock that this not the case under the intestacy rules. If a husband or wife dies leaving a surviving spouse and children, the Intestacy Rules state that the surviving spouse is entitled to:

    • All the deceased spouse’s personal chattels (paintings, cars, jewellery etc).
    • A cash legacy of £322,000 (only recently increased from £270,000).
    • Half of the remaining estate, with the other half passing to the children.

    The Intestacy Rules only apply to assets held in your sole name, with joint assets usually passing to the surviving joint owner(s) outside of the Will. Nevertheless as the Intestacy rules provide for assets to pass to a spouse and children, this can leave the surviving spouse without sufficient means to support themselves, and can result in complex trust arrangements, particularly in the case of minor children. Furthermore, any assets passing between spouses are treated as exempt, but assets passing to children can incur inheritance tax so a liability may arise.

    Unmarried couples who die without valid Wills are even more at risk, as the surviving partner may be cut out entirely under the intestacy rules. If you are not married and do not have children then your estate can pass to parents, siblings, nieces and nephews which may not be what you wish or be tax efficient. If there are no surviving relatives who can inherit under the intestacy rules then your estate could even pass to the Crown.

    Certain people can challenge the intestacy rules or the terms of your Will and therefore it is important that a Will is drafted properly to make sure what you have worked hard for goes to those that you wish to benefit.

    We encourage you to think of a Will as an insurance policy, which allows you to have your say about how your valuable assets pass and who to.

    In addition to ensuring that your wishes are fulfilled, a properly drafted Will can also contain useful provisions for mitigating inheritance tax and care fees, particularly for married couples and civil partners. This has become even more important following the changes introduced by the government. These changes to inheritance tax have affected not only wealthy individuals who leave assets in trust for their families during their lifetime, but all those who wish to leave assets in trust for young children under their Wills.

    The moral of the story is to make sure you make a valid Will, prepared by a suitably qualified lawyer, and keep it under regular review as your circumstances change.

    “DIY” Wills are to be avoided, as they can (through ambiguous language or poor drafting) cause more problems than they solve. In short, in nearly all cases, failure to make a Will leaves too much to chance.

    Making a Will is a must, not an option.

     

     

    This content is correct at time of publication

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