Why do I need a will? I have been meaning to talk to my solicitor about a will for some time now but don’t really see the need. Sure, my wife will get everything if something happens to me, right?
A Will is a vitally important thing to write. But an incorrect, badly drafted or obsolete Will can be a huge headache or even useless. A badly drafted or out-of-date Will can do more damage than no Will at all! A Will is an expression of your wishes regarding the management and distribution of your estate after you die. It’s also a legal declaration in which you appoint one or more adults to manage your estate and transfer your property after your death.
Die ‘intestate’ (without a Will) and your property, personal possessions and other assets will be distributed according to intestacy law, rather than your personal wishes. Many believe that when they die, their spouse or partner will receive all their wealth and goods. Actually, this is not the case. In fact, without a Will, your assets are distributed according to a strict legal pecking order.
The rules of inheritance
If the deceased is survived by you, assets are divided as follows
- spouse/civil partner but no children – spouse/civil partner gets entire estate
- spouse/civil partner and children – spouse/civil partner gets two-thirds, one-third is divided equally between children (if a child has already died his/her children take a share)
- parents, no spouse/civil partner or children – divided equally or entirely to one parent if only one survives.
- children, no spouse/civil partner – divided equally between children (as above)
- brothers and sisters only – shared equally, the children of a deceased brother or sister take the share
- nieces and nephews only – divided equally between those surviving
- other relatives – divided equally between nearest equal relationship
- no relatives – the state
Why make a Will?
Obviously, the best reason to make a Will is to ensure that you dodge intestacy and avoid the painful sharing-out described above. If you fail to make a Will, then your loved ones could receive less than you wanted, thanks to money going to family members who may not need or deserve it.
When Wills turn toxic
A Will should be a ‘living document’ — a contract that changes and evolves as your life and circumstances change. A badly drafted or outdated Will can be a time-bomb waiting to explode, blowing up your estate after your death.
What this means is that when you make major changes to your life, your will should change too. Otherwise, your Will could become obsolete, making the settlement of your estate a bureaucratic nightmare and causing family rifts among your relatives.
In particular, you should draft or redraft a Will (or add a supplement called a ‘codicil’) if you marry, enter into a Civil Partnership, separate or divorce, or if your Civil Partnership is dissolved. The birth of another child or children may also require you to redraft your Will.
If you make a major change to your housing circumstances (for example, moving from being an owner to a tenant or care-home resident), then you may no longer have a home to leave to your relatives. So selling your home or moving house could be another trigger to redraft your Will.
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This article aims to give information, not advice. Always do your own research and/or seek out advice from a Financial Broker before acting on anything contained in this article.