What is a will?
A will is a legally binding document which sets out your wishes for later life, including how your assets will be passed on to your loved ones. However, wills are not simply designed to specify who should inherit certain belongings; in a will, you may also state who should be the guardian of your children or give preferences about your funeral arrangements. A will is good way to ensure peace of mind, knowing that your wishes will be adhered to.
What happens when someone dies without a will in the UK?
This is a common question that Wills and Probate solicitors face. If you die without a valid Will you are said to have died ‘intestate’. This means that your assets will be passed on according to the intestacy rules. These standardised rules only take into account family connections, meaning that your specific situation and your loved ones’ needs are not taken into account.
This often causes unforeseen stress and problems for families at what is already a most difficult time. For example, an unmarried partner would be not be entitled to receive anything, even if they had lived with you for a number of years. Furthermore, step-children often end up being left out, as there is no blood relation.
To help illustrate the importance of a will, we’ll look at 10 realistic situations where a will would help provide peace of mind for your future:
- I have just bought my first house – who would inherit it if I die without a will? If you die intestate, your assets will pass to your closest surviving family even if they are very distant and you aren’t close to them.
- I am getting married to my partner. Marriage revokes a will, so even if you have one, you would need a new will to avoid the intestacy provisions applying and even if you want a will in exactly the same terms.
- I live with my long term partner, but I own our house. I assume she is my next of kin and will inherit it if I die? No, there is no legal meaning to next of kin and a partner (who is not your spouse or civil partner) does not inherit under the intestacy provisions, you need to make provision for them in your will.
- I am separating from my spouse and assume they won’t inherit from me even if I die before we are divorced? While you are only separated and not divorced, any joint property will pass to them automatically and they will inherit under your will or intestacy, so it is perhaps even more important to change or make a will during this time.
- I have a new child. Even though they may inherit under the intestacy provisions, you may want to ensure that they don’t inherit until they are older than the minimum age of 18 and you may also want to appoint guardians to care for them.
- I have a business and one of my children is involved in that business but the other is not. Special provisions may be needed to leave your interest in the business to one child and to make other provisions for the other child.
- Choosing your executors and trustees. It is better that you choose the people who will administer your estate and any ongoing trusts, rather than leaving it to chance or to people who may be unsuited to the role.
- Making provisions for pets in your will. What would you want to happen to your pets on your death? You may want to make specific provision with a local charity.
- I support a variety of charities and want them to inherit something when I die. Anything you leave to a UK registered charity is entirely exempt for inheritance tax purposes and if you leave 10% of your estate to charity, then in addition, to the above exemption, the tax rate on the balance of the estate (if taxable) is reduced to 36% from 40%, so it can be very tax effective to make gifts to charity by will.
- I have children from my first marriage and am about to get married again; what can I do? There are plenty of options but don’t just leave it to chance!
A will can help to provide safety and security for your loved ones and ensure that your wishes are met when you pass away. Our experienced Wills and Probate solicitors in London can help you to draft a will that fully meets your needs. To discuss your will with us, get in touch today on 0808 252 5231 or contact us online.