If you die without a Will, your estate will be inherited in accordance with the rules of intestacy. These were drawn up in the 1920’s, and although they have been reviewed, they do not reflect the wishes of most people. These rules state that your spouse may end up sharing your estate with your children. Or if you are an unmarried couple, then your partner may not get anything.
If you do not make provision for young children, then the authorities will decide who is best placed to look after them, which may be hugely upsetting and disruptive. It can also mean that your partner (if you are not married) does not automatically become guardian of your children.
If you die without making a Will, your ex-spouse may be entitled to claim part or all of your estate in certain circumstances. Even if your ex-spouse cannot make a claim, the assets you leave in trust for your children may fall under their control.
The Point of a Will
A Will only gives away what has not been taken from you or what you have not spent. Understandably, people have reservations regarding this delicate matter, but the process need not turn out to be as upsetting and difficult as you might think. In fact, having made a Will gives you a feeling that you have done everything correctly and provides inner warmth that only comes in the knowledge that you have tied up all those loose ends.
But making sure that you have a Will is not enough; it has to be the right type of Will – one that is professionally drafted to take into account your wishes, and your personal and financial circumstances.
The correct Will can allow you to:
- Specify whom you wish to inherit your estate, in what order and in what proportions so that you have comfort in the knowledge that your wishes will be carried out.
- Make specific legacies to family or friends or gifts to your favourite charities.
Appoint suitable guardians for young children rather than leaving the decision to the Courts.
- Set up maintenance trusts for children to protect their inheritance until an age specified by you.
- Ensure the inheritance of your children or other beneficiaries should the survivor re-marry.
Protect your share of the property from having to be sold to pay for the survivors future care fees, thus still having assets to leave to your family.
Amending an Existing Will
If you already have a Will, it is recommended that you review it every 2 to 5 years. Sometimes your wishes may not have changed, but the value of your assets and the law may have. As such it is very important to ensure that your Will does exactly what you want it to do; that it protects your assets and investments, and most importantly that you have taken advantage of various areas of flexibility within the law of estate planning.