5 Fundamental reasons to have a will
DENTAL BULLETIN, ISSUE 51
When you have put your heart and soul into working hard and have accumulated assets as a result (often of significant value), surely you want these to be left to people of your own choosing and not necessarily as prescribed by law.
With so much at stake, having a valid will is crucial. Those of you subscribed to discount offer websites will regularly get emails from the likes of Wowcher and Groupon and have no doubt come across cut-price will making ‘kits’ or deals. However, these DIY methods should be approached with caution. One small mistake, such as incorrect execution, could potentially render the will invalid and that is the last thing anyone wants.
Whilst seeking the advice and guidance of solicitors or professional will writers might be more expensive than a DIY will kit in the short term, you could save a lot of worry and heartache in the long run, knowing that your will has been correctly drafted and executed.
So why should you have a will?
Reason 1: avoid the laws of intestacy
When a person dies without a valid will, they have died intestate and the rules of intestacy apply. These laws govern who will inherit assets in the absence of a valid will based on the value of the estate on death and which family members survive the deceased. Only certain groups of people within a prescribed order can inherit under the intestacy rules.
Where a person dies leaving a spouse/civil partner and children, the intestacy rules dictate that their estate is divided as follows:
The spouse/civil partner receives all assets up to the value of £250,000 and all personal possessions (regardless of their value). The remainder of the estate is split in half so that the spouse/civil partner obtains a life interest in one half and the other half is divided equally between the surviving children.
Who cannot inherit under the intestacy rules:
- unmarried partners
- other relations by marriage
- friends or neighbours
Reason 2: retain control
By having a will, you and you alone get to decide who gets what including people such as partners or friends that would not be entitled under the intestacy rules. You can stipulate your funeral wishes, make arrangements for your pets and leave legacies to charities. You also get to decide who will sort out the affairs of your estate by appointing your choice of executor(s). Having a will can make the process of dealing with your estate less stressful and time-consuming for those you leave behind.
Reason 3: appoint your chosen guardians for minor children
In the very unfortunate circumstance that you were to leave behind children under the age of 18, you can expressly state in your will who you want to be their guardians. Should the worst happen, your children will be cared for by a person/people that you have carefully selected.
N.B: When selecting guardians it is always wise to ask the person/people that you have chosen to make sure it is alright with them.
Reason 4: minimise family conflicts
Do not leave it to chance; the fact the person is not named in your will does not mean they will not be able to inherit (read a recent example). This is because the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 sets out circumstances and the classes of family members that may be awarded some financial provision, even if they are otherwise excluded from a will, have not inherited due to the intestacy rules or have not been left as much as they require.
However, making your intentions clear in a formal document should minimise family conflicts. If there are family members that you want to specifically exclude from your will, make sure this is clearly written in the will together with the reason you are excluding them. Whilst this is not a fool-proof method it still makes your intentions clear at a time when you will not be there to clarify what you wanted.
Reason 5: properly deal with your business
If you own your own business, upon your death it can either be sold or carry on running. Whilst the event of death should be factored into your business plan and if it is a company the articles of association, you can also make provision in your will. This will ensure that your business is left in the right hands to safeguard its continued and successful growth or ensure that it is sold with the proceeds going to the people of your choosing.
Keeping a will up-to-date
Making a will is not the end of it I’m afraid. Once made, it is essential that you keep your will under regular review and keep it updated, especially if your circumstances change. You can make changes to your will at any time provided that you have the mental capacity to do so at the time the changes are made. So if your assets change, if your family situation changes or you wish to leave something to another person, your will needs to be updated to reflect this.
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Jigna Vekaria, Solicitor
Please note that the information contained in this article was correct at the time of writing. There may have been updates to the law since the article was written, which may affect the information and advice given therein.