Most people postpone making a will. This could be because they do not want a reminder of their mortality or maybe they are too busy. Whatever the excuse is, making a will is one of the most important things every person over the age of 18 should do. Modern society is complex, with Partnerships, Second Marriages and Alternate Lifestyles becoming more common-place, so having a Will and proper Estate Planning are more important than ever before.
A will is a legal document that declares how you want your assets to be distributed after you die. A will tells everyone what should happen to your money, possessions and property after you die (all these things together are called your ‘estate’
It is important that everyone makes a will no matter how big or small their estate is. By making a will you can ensure that your family and love ones receive the gifts you want them to. If you do not make a will then your assets will be shared out among your next of kin according to a strict order of priority called the ‘rules of intestacy’. This means that people you want to benefit from your estate – such as a partner you’re not married to or in a registered civil partnership with – might get nothing.
Many people think that making a will is just for the elderly, it is advisable for all adults to have a will in place. Only by making a Will can you be absolutely certain that your affairs will be dealt with as you would wish. That is especially important if you have property or other valuable assets, and even more so if you have dependent children.
When making a will there are key questions you need to think about. These are:- Who do you want to be the executors? This is the person/s responsible for distributing your estate when you die.
Who do you want to be the beneficiary? This is the person/s who you wish to leave your estate to. Do you want to leave any specific bequests? This could be a specific item of jewellery. Do you need to name a guardian for your children? Any funeral/burial arrangements.
When thinking of who the beneficiary of your will is you also need to think whether you are specifically leaving a family member out who may be entitled to claim against your estate when you pass. For example if you have a child who you have ceased contact with you would need to state why they have been excluded from your will.
The case of Heather Ilott saw a landmark ruling by the Court of Appeal. Mrs Ilott had been excluded from her mothers will due to the fact that she left the family home and eloped when she was 17 years old. Lady Justice Arden in the Court of Appeal said Mrs Ilott should receive the money as her mother had been “unreasonable, capricious and harsh”. Mrs Ilott was award the sum of £164,000.
This case could have implications for how people draw up their wills. It is always advisable to someone making a will that if they are leaving out a family member who may have a right to claim from their estate they need to ensure they explain the reasons for leaving that person out, these reasons will then have to be seen as reasonable as in the case of Mrs Ilott her mother had specifically written a letter to accompany her will explaining why she had excluded her daughter from the will.
The outcome of this case is also worrying for charities as Mrs Ilotts mother had left her estate to several charities who have now had part of the monies left to them in the estate removed. It may also deter people leaving gifts to charities.
If you make a will it will save your family unnecessary distress at an already difficult time. Making a will may also help you save on inheritance tax.
Once you have made a will it is also important to ensure your will is kept up to date. You should review your will after the following events:-
● You get married or divorced (a change in marital status may void your will);
● You are unmarried, but have a new partner;
● The amount of money and/or property you own changes significantly;
● Your executor or a significant beneficiary in your will dies;
● There is a birth or adoption of a child in your family;
● You change your mind about the provisions in your will.
It is still as vital as ever to make a will to ensure your estate is distributed in accordance with your wishes no matter how big or small your estate is or how young or old you are.
Collingbourne Hennah Law