Why make a Will?
Research shows that less than one third of adults have made Wills and one in six
Wills are out of date. If you do not make a Will the law decides what happens to your estate and this may not be what you expect or intend. You may also fail to take advantage of possible tax planning opportunities and your estate could incur more tax as a result.
You can use your Will to:
Decide who will inherit your assets
·Save inheritance tax
·Appoint executors - individuals responsible for winding up your affairs in accordance with your wishes
·Appoint guardians to look after your children and trustees to manage their inheritance until they are mature enough to do so themselves; and
·Leave a gift to a good cause or something special to a friend or loved one.
Married couples & civil partners
An existing Will is normally revoked by marriage or civil partnership registration.
Do not assume that, if you are married, everything automatically passes to your spouse or civil partner on death. This is not necessarily the case, particularly if you have children and your estate exceeds £250,000, or if you do not have children, but your estate exceeds £450,000. If you own a home worth more than £250,000 your spouse or civil partner will not necessarily be entitled to it.
If your combined estates are above the inheritance tax nil rate band (£325,000 in 2014/15) you may wish to consider the possible advantages of including tax planning measures in your Wills. Otherwise your estate may end up paying more tax, leaving less for your beneficiaries.
Home ownership & cohabitation
Registered same-sex civil partners now have the same rights as married couples. However, unmarried or unregistered couples who live together must make Wills if they wish to leave assets to each other.
The law does not give a surviving cohabiting partner the same rights as married couples or civil partners.
If you do not have a Will your partner could get nothing and may even be forced to leave the property you occupied together. There is no such thing as a “common law spouse”.
Cohabiting couples also have no right to claim part of their partner's pension.
If a cohabiting couple have children, the father may not automatically have parental responsibility and, therefore, guardianship in the event of the mother's death.
A surviving partner can make a claim for financial provision against the estate of the deceased partner if they cohabited for more than two years or were financially dependent on the deceased. However, this involves complex, lengthy legal proceedings which might be avoided by making Wills.
The dangers of home made Wills
Will drafting is a highly specialised area of law that should only be undertaken by qualified, experienced professionals who are properly insured. A Will is a legal document that must meet all the requirements laid down by law in order for it to be valid.
There are often hidden complexities that are not appreciated by an individual making a Will and which only come to light on a full review and consideration of personal circumstances. Attempting to save the relatively modest cost of a professionally drawn Will could subsequently cause distress and financial loss to your loved-ones.
Keeping your Will updated
Wills are normally drafted to take account of likely future circumstances, but it is wise to review your Will every few years to reflect changes in your life and taxation. You should review your Will on any of the following events:
·Entering into a marriage, registered civil partnership or co-habitation
·The birth of children in the family.
Worryingly, more than half of UK adults (53%) don’t have a will, according to the charity, Will Aid. This includes nearly eight million people over 50 who have yet to make a will, according to a recent study by Saga. Why bother with a will? Writing a will ensures that your assets and possessions are passed on to the people you choose. It is one of the most important documents to have when it comes to preserving the long-term financial security of your family.