Do I need a Will? Making a will can seem like a scary job that ends up being on the back burner for years. But things can go wrong, and it would be uncomfortable to look down (or up!) and see everything going wrong for your family because you left it just a bit too long. Early deaths are a reality that has become rather too common these days.
What if it stays on the back burner until too late?
Even if you don’t have much, you should still have a simple Will set up – it really doesn’t take too much of your time, and it can prevent disaster. Rather than the Government deciding who inherits your children and whatever you own, it has to be better that you make that choice – and keep it under review as life changes over the years.
So, how does a simple Will help your family?
1. A simple Will decides…who gets what you own if you die.
This one is vital for unmarried couples who would otherwise need to go to Court in an attempt to inherit anything at all. One advantage (and not the main one for many people) of owning a simple will is that it allows you to decide who you wish to inherit – rather than the Government deciding. If you don’t have a Will, then only people related to you legally can inherit, and that will be in a specific order known as the Rules of Intestacy. The people you had wished to look after may receive nothing.
For example, you may wish your legal husband / wife / civil partner / common-law partner spouse to inherit everything but if you die without a will they would only be entitled to a proportion of your estate – or NOTHING AT ALL if it is a common-law marriage. The rest would go to your children if you have any (though that might not be appropriate if they are very young or vulnerable). If you did not have any children, the remainder of your estate would pass to your legal relatives – who may take no interest in helping your partner, who might be made homeless in some cases. Others that are important to you, such as friends or charities, would receive nothing.
If you want to see where your assets would go without a Will, check out this page on the Government website. But children would be dealt with by Social Services where appropriate (and you always have to consider that your other half could go at the same time, leaving children totally subject to Social Services and the Courts with no guidance from you.
2. A simple Will decides…is VITAL to protect your children.
It enables you to name the people who would be responsible for bringing them up (or at least, making important decisions on their behalf) and the guardians are usually also the people the children would live with if the parents have died.
3. A simple Will decides…who would sort everything out if you died.
The Will allows you to appoint someone you trust to sort out your personal affairs after your death (your “executor”). Without a Will, your next of kin (who may not be your partner) may have to apply to the Probate Court to be appointed as your executor(s) and could be required to obtain an insurance policy before the court will appoint them. This can lead to delays and costs.
4. A simple Will lets you decide on funeral arrangements.
Your Will doesn’t have to include specific instructions for your funeral, but it can be a great relief if it does. Otherwise, 12 family members will all be equally certain that only they know exactly what you would have wanted – and blows may even be exchanged.
So even if you don’t care, it is as well to say something in the Will. Normally, the executor would make the arrangements, but you can specify someone else. Funeral arrangements can be especially important if you or anyone in your family is religious. You may care to look at the Prepaid Funeral Review to save money by prepaying for a funeral (we’re all going to need one!)
5. A simple Will decides…tax planning.
Finally, making a simple will enables you to take at least the basic steps to reduce the amount of inheritance tax that may be payable by your estate. For example, any assets left to a spouse or civil partner or charity pass free of inheritance tax but your estate would not benefit from this fully if some of it had to be distributed to non-exempt beneficiaries under the intestacy rules.
In summary, making a simple Will gives you genuine control over the administration and distribution of your estate rather than leaving these matters to chance.
All Wills should be reviewed every 3 years, just to make sure that the Law, Tax and your personal circumstances haven’t changed enough to mean that an update is needed. Our Peace of Mind Service optionally puts this valuable service in place, and also reminds you once a year to think about things and give us a free call to chat through any concerns.
7) Not so simple Wills…….
For homeowners, there are special types of Wills to protect your home to benefit future generations or to minimise Inheritance Tax if you are “well off” or just live in an area where just a house can put you into the Inheritance Tax paying bracket.
Not everyone will need these types of Wills, or indeed specialist Trusts – but we have the expertise to advise you where they might be relevant.
For more information, pop as many of your details as you wish in the form below, and we’ll be pleased to send you a general Guide and give you a few minutes free advice if you wish. Home visits are not available for free advice, but most of our clients are based outside our local area (Eastbourne, Polegate, Hailsham, Seaford, Bexhill) so we are very used to doing things by phone and post.