As of last year it was estimated that over half of the British public do not have a will and the numbers do not seem to be decreasing anytime soon.
Making a Will is one of the most important actions you can take in your life, not only for yourself but also for your family. A will decides what will happen to your assets after your passing. If left to take its own course, the law can be very damaging. Unresolved issues surrounding your estate when you die can lead to the Law of Intestacy distributing your financial assets without your consent.
What many people do not realise is that the law can also decide what happens to your children, how much inheritance tax your family will pay on your estate and any charitable contributions you choose to make.
60% of parents pass on without a Will
When we think of writing a Will, we usually think of family heirlooms being passed down from generation to generation. However, whilst a will can outline the new ownership of material possessions it can also do so much more.
For example, take young parents who do not have a Will. If they were to die without administering one, the courts would decide on new guardians for their children. 24,000 children lose a parent each year and 60% of parents do not have a Will. Parents must secure their child’s future and the only way to do this is by writing a Will.
Less inheritance tax for your children
No Will can mean higher inheritance tax as well as a loss of assets. The standard threshold on no inheritance tax is £325,000 and 40% on anything above. If you are a parent and decide to leave your home to your children then your inheritance tax threshold will increase up to £475,000.
Getting in touch with a Will, Trust or Probate solicitor is your best course of action as they will be able to advise on how best to set out your Will.
The importance of family
Without a Will, the process of distributing an estate is time consuming and complex, especially if you have a dependent or young children. A Will can set out provisions on how your property and possessions are given out and, in certain circumstances, set up Trusts for those who need them.
If your family strays from the traditional nuclear set up, you may want to consider what this means for your estate. If you have remarried, a Will can guarantee any children from your first marriage get a share of your estate if otherwise excluded.
Whatever your situation, protect your family by legally stating what will go to who after your death.
How to start making a Will
Starting the process of making a Will is simple. Begin by making a plan to think about who you might want to leave your possessions to and talk to your family; they might be able to help.
The next step is to approach a professional so you can get your Will written. Gain planning and writing advice specifically tailored to your situation by an expert Will solicitor. Learn how to appoint executors and beneficiaries as well as guidance on Trusts, inheritance tax and more.
As part of the Will making process, you are able to appoint Executors who will distribute your estate as you please. The main reason why you should make a Will is because if you don’t, the law will take your estate into their own hands. An Executor is just another piece of the puzzle that can prevent this from happening.
An executor of a Will is there to ensure your last wishes are adhered to correctly; they are there to share your estate out exactly as you want it to be. The Executor of your Estate must be someone who you trust. If there is conflict in the family, then it may be best to appoint someone on the outside; these are called Independent Executors, usually a professional law firm.
Most people choose a family member as there is no restriction to say they can not also be a beneficiary of the Will. It must be noted however, that whoever your witness is, cannot be a beneficiary.
Working closely with your Will solicitor is important in securing the right executors and guaranteeing that your savings and estate will go to the people and/or causes you care most about.
What happens if I die without a Will?
It is an uncomfortable topic to speak about but it has long been neglected. Dying without a Will means an unstable future for your children, it means a lack of choice over your own assets and it means unnecessary distress and upset for your family.
The death of a loved one is a difficult time for anyone. It is made even more difficult when the person who has died does not leave a Will and you are now responsible for dealing with their affairs.
The confusion and stress can all be avoided by making a Will and following the steps above.
What to do next?
Once an executor has been made aware of their new appointment they will have to apply for a Grant of Probate, which gives them permission to access and distribute the estate. Before Probate is granted there is no opportunity for anyone to lay claim, transfer or sell the deceased’s assets.
The Probate process can be confusing but equally so can the process when there is no Will to administer.
Avoid the trap of leaving a mess behind for your family and friends to work through. A series of issues can arise from not having a Will, including: family disagreements, confusion over division of financial assets, high rate of Inheritance Tax, argument over ownership of property and more.
We do not spend our lives working hard for our assets to be given away in a manner that is not in keeping with our last wishes. Everybody is different but everybody should have control.
Start today and make a Will to keep your family secure and your final wishes respected.