It is equally important to make sure that your Will is kept up to date to cover life events such as:
A new cohabiting relationship;
A relationship breakdown or divorce;
The arrival of children or grandchildren;
The death or incapacity of a trustee or executor of your Will;
A desire to make specific bequests to new named beneficiary to reflect changing family and personal circumstances.
To speak to a member of the London based OTS solicitors Wills, tax and probate team please call us on 0203 959 9123 for an initial discussion about how we can help you. If you prefer you can contact us through our online enquiry form.
Do I need a Will?
A lot of people think that a Will is unnecessary because if they pass away without leaving a Will their assets and estate will pass under intestacy rules. The thought process is therefore “why bother with a Will?”. Top London Wills, tax and probate solicitors would say that dying without a Will (called dying intestate) can:
- Create additional stress and worry for your loved ones;
- Potentially increase the likelihood of a family member or dependent making a claim against your estate;
- Prevent you from estate and tax planning, for example leaving a portion of your estate to a charity reducing inheritance tax;
- Make your estate more expensive to administer.
The benefits of making a Will
If you make a Will you can:
Decide who gets your money: the Will does not necessarily have to name beneficiaries but can say, for example, that your estate is to be left equally between your children or grandchildren. It is important to tell your Wills, tax and probate solicitor if any of the people that you treat as ’blood relatives’ are not actually biologically related to you, for example, a step child who is as close to you as your natural children;
Put conditions on gifts, for example your Will could say that your children or grandchildren should only get their inheritance when they are 21 years of age or at a later age;
Appoint testamentary guardians for any infant children to protect your children in the event that you pass away while the children are still minors;
Appoint executors and trustees of your estate: the executors and trustees can be trusted friends or professionals such as your Wills, tax and probate solicitor. The role of an executor and trustee is important as they make sure that your estate is dealt with properly. Your Will can give your executors and trustees the power to advance money to your children or other minor beneficiaries in case they need cash prior to receiving their inheritance, for example to pay their university fees or to provide a deposit on a house;
Let your loved ones and executors know about your funeral wishes in the event you have views about burial or cremation;
Create trusts in your Will to provide flexibility and privacy by preparing a letter of wishes to accompany the Will. After probate a Will is made a public document and is available for anyone to read. A letter of wishes remains confidential. A letter of wishes can be a very useful document as it can set out your wishes to your executors and trustees and give them guidance on how you would want them to exercise their discretion.
Wills and unmarried families
In some family scenarios dying without a Will creates enormous problems for loved ones, for example:
Unmarried partners and families – a cohabitee will not inherit a share of the estate under intestacy rules but may be able to make a claim against the estate as a dependent;
Where you have been married more than once – a former spouse may be able to make a claim against the estate if a clean break financial order was not made in the divorce and financial settlement proceedings;
If you are a business owner.
Does a Will need updating if you marry?
When you marry or remarry any existing Will you may have is automatically revoked. That means if you die then your estate passes under intestacy rules. Those rules may produce a very different result to what you anticipated or create a legal dispute between relatives over who should get what. From a top London Wills, tax and probate solicitor’s perspective it is vital that you make a new Will when you get married or alternatively you express your Will as being made in contemplation of your planned marriage.
Is a Will valid after a divorce?
When you get your decree absolute of divorce or dissolution of civil partnership any provision in your Will for your former spouse or civil partner ceases to have effect. That may not be appropriate or you may want to change another aspect of your Will in light of your divorce or the dissolution of your civil partnership.
Can a Will be contested?
A Will can be challenged. That is why it is important that you get the best London Wills, tax and estate planning solicitors’ advice to minimise the risk of your Will being challenged by a relative, dependant or beneficiary.
Challenging a Will through court proceedings can be expensive. It is therefore sensible to get expert legal advice from the top London Wills, tax and probate solicitors to make sure your Will is fit for purpose. It is also just as important to review and, if appropriate, change your Will when significant life events occur such as the formation of a new relationship or a separation.