Writing a Will is the only way to ensure your wishes are carried out as you intend on death. Without this your estate will be subject to the intestacy rules, meaning you have no control over its’ administration, creating heartache and uncertainty for those you have left behind.
So why should you get a Will?
Creating a Will, first and foremost, allows you to pass down your estate to who you wish. It has significant influence over the administration of your estate, from who acts as executors to ensuring that everything is passed down per your wishes, and even who looks after your children.
Whilst you may assume that capital will pass down to your partner and then to your children, things are not always as simple as that. For example, if you are in an unmarried relationship then, under intestacy, your partner is not entitled to anything from your estate, regardless of how long you may have been together. Similarly, stepchildren or foster children would also miss out, with the law dictating that it is only blood relatives who automatically inherit in instances where the deceased has left no Will. If you want to provide for these children, then you need to write a will that includes them.
Furthermore, if the family home is in your name and you pass away then your partner and stepchildren will not automatically inherit it. This leads to the very real possibility of them losing their home. Once again, this can be mitigated by ensuring the provision is given to them in your Will.
A Will can also protect the children in additional ways especially if they’re under 18 when you pass away. They will require legal guardians and without a Will, you lose all control over this appointment. Whilst you may think naming close friends as godparents will aid their selection, this is not legally binding. This means that your choice of who should be the legal guardians is instead the decision of the Family Courts, who may well choose a person you would not agree with. It is not worth taking the risk.
You may also wish to leave a legacy for your children in terms of cash provisions. Examples can be amounts to cover school or university fees, property purchase, or money set aside for future business ventures. Without clear guidelines, your money may not be divided how you wish or be used in a way that you intend. This ambiguity provides opportunity for family disputes and means that the inheritance is not used in the way you had hoped.
If you die without a Will then your money is divided using the intestacy rules. These state that, should your estate be valued above £270,000, then your children must inherit some of the value immediately, which may be earlier than you would have intended. In some instances, this may require the sale of the main residence to fund the appointment out of capital to the children, leaving your partner without a home during the distressing period following your death.
A Will means that these provisions are not prematurely distributed. You can also set parameters to protect the inheritance by implementing Trust provisions, which detail what age or for what reason the money can be accessed.
Intestacy also causes potential Inheritance Tax issues, which could have been avoided by perhaps leaving only the Nil Rate Band (currently £325,000) in trust for the children with the balance of the deceased’s estate left to the surviving spouse, as this is exempt from IHT. Similarly, this Trust planning means that when your children pass away their subsequent remoter issue can benefit from your estate without it being impacted by Inheritance Tax.
Need we say more?
If you haven’t got a Will now, then what are you waiting for? More importantly, if you have a Will, then when was it last reviewed? Having no Will is not good, having a bad one is a disaster.
We recommend that everyone reviews their Wills every 2-3 years to see if it still meets their requirements. There are also regulatory changes that happen on an ongoing basis, meaning that your Will can easily be superseded by events.
At Foresight, we work with established Estate Planners who would be happy to look over your Wills at no charge – and make any necessary recommendations to bring them up to speed.
If you have any questions about this article or would like to speak with one of our Wealth Strategists about this subject then please contact us on 0161 926 9350 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.