WHY YOU NEED A WILL

There are many reasons why you should make a will… Here are our top five

What is a Will?

Your Will is a legal document put in place to coordinate your assets in the event of your death. A Will also allow you to appoint guardians for your children as well as specify how you wish for your property and possessions to be distributed once you die.

You must appoint at least one executor; this is the person who will be responsible for ensuring that the contents of your Will are managed exactly as you wanted. An executor can be anyone from a solicitor to a family friend.

Why do I need a will?

While the purpose of a Will is to ensure your estate is appropriately managed in the event of your death, it is also necessary to legally define other things such as:

  • Appointing a specific person to manage your estate
  • Specifying who should inherit things like heirlooms and artwork as well as any charitable donations
  • Outlining what should happen to your possessions should any of your named beneficiaries die before you
  • Detailing your funeral wishes, including whether you wish to be buried or cremated alongside any ceremony-based requests

In addition to this, Wills are put in place to protect certain groups of people, such as:

Children

Under the law, if both parents of children under the age of 18 die it is the courts alone who will ultimately determine who looks after those children and brings them up. We always hope that the courts will make the correct choice, but the only way for the parents themselves to be absolutely sure who they are is for them them to appoint legal guardians in a Will.

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Unmarried Couples (Or Non Civil Partners)

The concept of “common law” spouses is a big myth and hasn’t actually existed in law for 2 centuries. Consequently, where two people live together – irregardless of the length of time they have done so – if one of them dies the survivor may be entitled to nothing, or very little, from the estate. Moreover, all the benefits of inheritance tax (IHT) allowances only apply to married couples or civil partners. So not only do unmarried couples have no automatic rights in law but they could also be heavily penalised as far as IHT is concerned and could end up paying considerably more than a married couple. The right kind of Will can put them on a par with their married counterparts.

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Remarriage

This is a very common issue not only for many of my clients but also in society as a whole. The problem is if A and B get remarried to each other and they both have children from previous relationships how can the first of those to die be sure that their assets goes to THEIR children and doesn’t all end up going, often by default, to the children of the second to die, or even to a new spouse again? But, as before, the right type of Will can deal with this scenario easily.

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Unreliable / Vulnerable Children

If clients have unreliable or vulnerable children they often feel very uncomfortable leaving them a large (or even any) legacy. But by the same token there are laws often preventing clients from omitting these children from their Wills altogether. So clients feel caught between a rock and a hard place. The right kind of Will can overcome this problem altogether meaning all sides are satisfied and the intention of the clients are fully met.

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Long Term Care Costs

Long Term Care Costs

By far and away this is the single biggest worry or challenge that clients have. The cost of long term care and the all-too-common need to have to sell the family home to pay for it is THE big story of the moment. There is much that can be done that is unlawful or even illegal. But likewise with early enough and careful enough planning and the correct Will, clients can go a very long way to securing that family home for the children and/or grandchildren, rather than having to give it up to pay for long term care costs. We at Prior Knowledge are happy to advise and assist with this.

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What happens if I don’t have a Will?

If you die without a valid Will, it is called ‘intestacy’. This means that your estate will be distributed according to the set rules of intestacy.

What are the rules of intestacy?

In England and Wales, a set of rules are enforced if you die intestate and your estate will be divided according to these, with no consideration of what your intentions were. These rules are not necessarily straightforward, either.

How does inheritance work under the rules of intestacy?

  • Unless you’re married or in a civil partnership, your partner is not legally entitled to anything when you die.
  • If you’re married, your husband or wife may inherit most – or all – of your estate. However, your children may not receive anything. This is also the case if you’re separated but not if you’re divorced.
  • In other situations, your children may inherit earlier than intended meaning the surviving spouse may be forced to sell in order to satisfy the children’s’ inheritance.
  • Your inheritance tax bill might be higher than it would have been if you had made a Will.
  • If you die with no living close relatives, your whole estate will belong to the Crown or the government. This law is called bona vacantia.

Do I need to update my Will?

It is recommended that you review your Will every five years or so and following any big changes in your life, such as getting married or remarried or the arrival of a child or grandchild. If you are making minor amendments to your Will, then you can add a supplement called a codicil, but never make alterations to the original document. This must be signed and witnessed in the same way as the Will. However, if you’re making substantial changes, you should cancel your Will and make a new one.

How we can help

At Prior Knowledge, we understand that the prospect of making a Will can seem daunting. However, we aim to take away the hard work and make the process as stress-free as possible. We can talk you through all of the legal jargon and ensure you are aware of all of the options that are available to you.