Wills – Your Questions Answered

An at-a-glance guide to making a Will, and the risks you run if you haven’t made a Will.

1. If you don’t make a will, you cannot control who will inherit your money and property.

If you die without making a Will, your property will be distributed according to law (the law of ‘intestacy’), which is likely to be against your personal wishes and the people you want to inherit your possessions may not benefit. By making a Will, you can determine precisely who will inherit your property and let your loved ones know that you have considered their needs.

The law of intestacy is complex, but, broadly speaking, the bulk of your estate will go to your spouse (including a registered civil partner) or, if none, to your children (whether or not they are adults) and, if none, to other blood relatives.

The effect of the rules depends partly on whether you have children and your marital status. If you’re married with no children, your surviving spouse/civil partner will inherit everything.

But if you’re married with children, when you die without a Will less than you expect may go to your spouse. Your surviving spouse will receive £250,000, plus your personal belongings, and then half of the estate automatically. Your children will then inherit the remaining half share of the estate (or on trust until they reach the age of 18).

So it’s always prudent to have a valid will rather than rely on the intestacy rules.

Find out the laws on intestacy here.

2. If you’re not married and haven’t made a Will, your partner may receive nothing.

If you’re not married but are living with your partner and you want them to inherit your estate, it’s particularly important that you make a will. This is because the rules of intestacy make no provision for cohabitation or unmarried partners (other than registered civil partners). If you died without making a Will, your partner may not be legally entitled to anything from your estate.

Find out about the cohabitation risk you take if you’re part of an unmarried couple and haven’t made a will.

3. By making a Will you can determine who will handle your affairs after your death.

If you die without making a Will, you die ‘intestate’. This means that the management of your affairs is then placed in the hands of administrators who are appointed by the court. The administrators distribute your estate according to the rules of intestacy (see above).

4. By making a Will you can name a guardian for your children.

If you have minor children, you can name a guardian to care for them in the event of them being left without any parents. Since a guardian takes the place of a parent, making a will gives you the option of choosing someone you believe will offer the best care for your children if you’re not around.

5. It’s important to make a new Will if you get married or divorced.

Once you have made your Will, changes to your circumstances (e.g. marriage, separation, divorce, having a child or moving house) can make parts of the Will invalid or unfair and open to a successful claim under the Inheritance Act. You should, therefore, review your Will regularly to reflect any major life changes, preferably every five years.

Find out why you should make a Will if you’re getting divorced.

6. You can save Inheritance Tax.

Making a Will gives you the opportunity of saving Inheritance Tax liability. This is particularly important if you have substantial assets.

Find out more about Inheritance Tax here.

7. You must check your Will regularly.

It’s also possible to die partially intestate. This occurs if you fail to deal with all of your property in your Will or if a particular someone who was due to inherit in your Will dies before you or if you divorce and your ex-spouse’s legacy becomes invalid as a result. It’s therefore important to keep your Will up to date.

Is it time you updated your Will? You can make a Will with Lawpack today.

8. You can express your preferences for what happens after your death.

By making a will, you can express your preferences for burial or cremation and for donating organs or your entire body for medical purposes.

You can find out more about how you can protect your loved ones by making a Will here, or you can stop worrying and make a Will today here.

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