The Importance of Making a Will
As solicitors who practise in the area of Wills/Probate, we have come across several situations where people have died without leaving a Will (known as Intestacy) and it has caused all sorts of problems. There is a general assumption that if you are married, involved in a civil partnership or simply cohabiting with someone, then that person will inherit the whole of your estate on your death. That is not necessarily the case.
Under the current intestacy rules, as amended by the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act 2014, if you are married or have a civil partner and children, then only the first £270,000 of your estate, together with your personal effects, (the statutory legacy) will pass to your surviving spouse/civil partner and the balance of your estate over that value will be divided, so that half goes equally to your children and the other half to your spouse/civil partner.
In one case that I have been involved with, a husband who owned all the family assets died without leaving a Will. He was survived by his wife and a mentally incapacitated child. The amount of the widow’s statutory legacy was not sufficient to cover the value of her home. She, therefore, ended up sharing the ownership of her home with her child, whose assets were controlled by the Court of Protection. Some difficult decisions had to be made along the way, as to how to balance the needs of the beneficiaries, during which time the widow was extremely anxious and could not understand why she was not entitled to her husband’s estate.
A major issue arises for couples who are not married or in a civil partnership. The current intestacy rules make absolutely no provision for a cohabitee. In these circumstances, if you die without having made a Will, then your cohabitee will need to make a claim against your estate (essentially your relatives) for some provision. This can be costly and will inevitably take some time, during which period your cohabitee may suffer financial hardship. This situation may also lead to disharmony between your cohabitee and your relatives, adding stress to their bereavement.
All these issues can be resolved by making a Will. Amongst other things, a Will enables you to direct:
• how you would like your estate to be distributed
• who is to be responsible for administering your estate
• who should look after your children
• at what age your children/grandchildren should inherit.
At Bright Solicitors, we can assist you with the preparation of your Will, whether your requirements are straightforward or more complex. We take the time to get to know you and understand your circumstances so that we can give you comprehensive advice and produce a Will that suits you.