Why should I make a will? Gemma Hughes, Solicitor at our London office discusses the importance of making a will to protect yourself and your family.
Over half of people in the UK have not made a will, with London having the lowest numbers of people making their wills.
There are a number of reasons for this, but possibly the main one is that none of us like to think about our own death. There is also, of course, the misconception that with or without a will, a person’s estate will pass automatically to the people they would want to inherit.
A will is a very important document and there are a number of very good reasons for making one:
The Intestacy Rules apply if there is no will
Making a will is the only way to ensure that the Intestacy Rules do not apply to your estate. These rules set out what individuals will benefit from your estate and can result in your spouse having to share your estate with your children. If you are in a second marriage, then you may have wanted to make alternative arrangements for your new spouse that would ensure capital preservation for your children. Alternatively, you may not have intended to benefit your children immediately to make full use of the Inheritance Tax Nil Rate Band.
By making a will you are able to ensure that the individuals you wish to benefit from your estate actually do so.
The Intestacy Rules to do not protect a cohabitee
If you reside with your partner and are not married then the best course of action would be to do a will. Without one, your partner would not benefit from your estate as the Intestacy Rules do not recognise relationships that are not marriage.
Your partner may be able to make a claim against your estate but this is costly and can be avoided by making a will and making proper arrangements.
A will allows you to make arrangements regarding a second marriage
Second marriages are very common and, in the majority of cases, you and your new spouse may have children from a previous relationship as well as children together.
You may wish for your spouse to benefit from your estate but, ultimately, you would like your assets to pass to another beneficiary – e.g. the children from a previous relationship.
This situation can be dealt with effectively in your will and there are a number of options available. Without a will, this kind of planning is not as straightforward and, depending on the circumstances, may not even be possible after your death.
Separation from a spouse or civil partner
If you are married or in a civil partnership that has ended but has not yet been formally dissolved then it would be prudent to do a will.
While you remain married or in a civil partnership your spouse or civil partner will be entitled to a share of your estate under the Intestacy Rules. By doing a will you can direct your estate away from your spouse or civil partner to an individual or individuals that you would prefer to benefit.
Tax planning vehicle
For a married couple, a properly drafted will can result in inheritance tax being kept to a minimum.
It is possible to do your will yourself at home but this is not recommended unless the situation is very straightforward and the document will be a ‘simple’ will. Unfortunately, most situations are not straightforward and a home-made will can result in unforeseen and unwanted consequences that result in considerable expense. It is the role of the legal adviser to raise potential pitfalls with you to ensure that your estate passes to the right beneficiaries in the smoothest way possible.
Arrangements for children
If you have children under the age of 18 you can use your will to appoint a guardian or guardians who will take care of your children until they reach adulthood.
Disclaimer: While we do all that is possible in terms of ensuring its accuracy, this blog contains general information only. Nothing in these pages constitutes legal advice. You need to consult a suitably qualified lawyer from the firm on any specific legal problem or matter.
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