It seems to be universally accepted that having a Will is a really important and good thing to have, and yet 66% of adults do not have a valid Will.
A Will allows you to decide who will inherit your assets when you pass away. It allows you to give gifts to family, friends and charities which you may not be able to afford in life. You can appoint guardians for your children and set up a trust to ensure that your children will have their inheritance protected until an age of your choosing - would you want your children inheriting all your assets at 18, 21, 25?
Some people take the view that “well I’ll be gone, what’s the point” – and the point is you are leaving your family and friends to sort it out your estate and make decisions about who gets what after you have gone – or worse, you will be relying on the Administration of Estates Act 1925 to decide who gets what.
Times have changed a lot since 1925, most of all the family structure; from divorced couples and children from different relationships and unmarried couples living together.
Many people only need a simple Will which leaves everything to their partner, or if they survive their partner, to their children in equal shares (or maybe more to your favourite).
If you are married or in a civil partnership you may think that this is the default position – but in many circumstances that is not the case. If your estate is over a certain value then some of your assets may be held on trust for your partner and your children, limiting what your partner may be able to do.
Many people believe that if you are together or live together for a certain length of time you will automatically get rights as if you were married, but this is not true.
If you are unmarried and living together and the property in owned by one person and they pass away without a Will, the property will be set to go to their children, parents or siblings automatically. If you did not own the house with them you would have to apply to the court to prove your claim to stay in the home, or rely on strict land law principles which would only allow you an interest in the property – not their savings, pension or other assets. Which, after losing your loved one is the last thing you’ll want to be doing.
If you are, or you know somebody who is living with their partner; owns a property in joint names with someone; has children from different relationships; owns a business. Have a talk with them to make sure they have their affairs in order.
To those of you feeling smug that you are organised and have sorted out your Will – is it up to date? It is a little morbid to think about when you die, but every few years get your will out, dust it off and make sure it still applies to your life. This is especially important if you have married, divorced, bought property or had a change in circumstances since you last made your will.