Do I need a Will?
It’s estimated that over 60% of British adults do not have a Will. Like home insurance, Wills are optional; you don’t have to have one but the consequences of not having one are less than favourable.
Will Writer, Stefan de Beer, highlights the benefits of having a Will prepared by a legally trained professional.
- Intestacy. If you die without a Will, then you have died intestate. Assets will pass to beneficiaries as the law dictates, however, the beneficiaries declared by law may not be your chosen ones. Without a Will, you would have no executors, so no administration of the estate can take place until personal representatives have been appointed by the court. If you have a Will, the executors can act by authority of the Will on your death.
- A Will puts you in control. By preparing a Will, you make it absolutely clear whom you want to leave your estate and possessions to. Many people do not understand the laws of intestacy or have false assumptions in this regard; a common misconception is that the estate of a married person passes entirely to their spouse, irrespective of whether or not there are children from the marriage. This mistaken belief often leads married couples to reason that they do not need to prepare Wills.
- Guardianship. All parents should have a Will to appoint guardians, if for no other reason. By setting up guardianship clauses in your Will, you can formally appoint guardians to look after any children you have under the age of 18 when you pass away.
- You and your partner do not inherit from each other without Wills. If you co-habit as unregistered partners, you are regarded as single in the eyes of the law for the purpose of inheritance: you need to set up a Will to protect your partner in the event of your death.Your partner does not have an automatic right to inherit from you and vice versa. If you pass away intestate, your blood relations stand first in line to inherit from you, irrespective of how long you and your partner have been living together, or even if you have children together.
- Avoid partial intestacy. Inexperienced Will writers often neglect to make sufficient substitutionary provisions so that if one or several beneficiaries in the Will dies before you, there are no clauses setting out who the estate or relevant shares will pass to. If full consideration is not given to the age, nature and relationship of the beneficiary to you, and if the Will is not drafted to take account of all possibilities, you could die partially intestate.
- Protecting inheritance for children from previous relationships. If you and your partner/spouse have children from previous relationships, you might want to provide for them but still protect the inheritance for your own children. You need to seek advice from a legal professional who understands the complex workings of trust law; trusts can also help to protect assets in later life.
- Sideways disinheritance. If you pass away and your spouse remarries, what guarantee do you have that they will make a legally protected provision for your children? If they should pass away in a new marriage without a Will that provides for your children, the entire estate will go to their new spouse, effectively disinheriting your children. This is known as sideways disinheritance. A Will can be drafted to protect against this happening to your wealth.
- Protect vulnerable beneficiaries. If you have a disabled or special needs beneficiary who is unable to manage their own affairs, you will need to prepare an appropriate trust Will so that the funds can be managed on behalf of them for the remainder of their life.
- Wayward/immature beneficiaries. If you pass away without a Will and your children stand to inherit, the law determines that they will inherit at 18 years of age. If you felt your child was likely to squander the money or use it inappropriately, you can increase the age at which the child Will receive their inheritance and have it managed on their behalf, e.g. until they’ve finished university.
In brief, if you have children and/or own assets, you really should have a Will. To speak to our specialist Wills, trusts and probate solicitors in Bristol, contact us on 0117 905 9763 or complete our online enquiry form. Alternatively, click here to request an estimate for our Will writing.