A Will sets out who is to benefit from your property and possessions (your “Estate”) after your death and can appoint guardians and trustees for any minor children.
Why make a Will?
You can decide what happens to your Estate when you die. If you fail to make a Will, the English law on Intestacy will govern who gets what
You may want to provide for your partner if you are not married or in a civil partnership, especially if there are children to consider. Most people think that after they’ve been living with their partner for a couple of years, they become ‘common law partners’ with the same rights as married couples/civil partners. This is not the case. In fact, couples who live together have hardly any of the same rights as married couples or civil partners
If you are legally married or are in a civil partnership and have children from a previous relationship, you can ensure that your children benefit from your Estate
You can appoint guardians for any children under the age of 18 or create trusts for when your children reach a certain age
You can make sure you don’t pay more Inheritance Tax than is necessary
You can set out your funeral wishes and allocate funds out of your Estate to pay for the same
You can limit the emotional distress for your family and friends by making it easier for them to avoid spending unnecessary time, money and emotional energy settling your affairs and avoid any disputes
You can give money to your preferred charity
Although it is possible to write a Will by yourself, it is always advisable to use a lawyer. There are numerous legal formalities you need to follow to make sure that your will is valid. If you do not have a valid Will then your Estate will pass in accordance with the Intestacy Rules (see below). You may also need legal advice for more complicated matters, such as Inheritance Tax planning, protecting assets from care home costs and protecting vulnerable beneficiaries.
What happens if you don’t make a Will?
If you do not leave a valid Will, your Estate will pass in accordance with the Intestacy Rules. The Intestacy Rules set out who will inherit your Estate resulting in your estate passing to people who you may not want it to.
If you are married or are in a civil partnership, the first person entitled to your Estate under the intestacy rules is your spouse/civil partner, but he or she will not necessarily inherit the whole of your Estate. The amount your spouse/civil partner would inherit depends on the value and nature of your Estate and which blood relatives survive you.
If you are living together but are not married or in a civil partnership, your partner will not automatically benefit from your Estate.
You may have children from a previous relationship and you want to provide for them as well as your partner and a trust may be advisable.
If you have no living relatives and do not have a Will, your Estate may pass to the Crown.
Why review your existing Will?
If you already have a Will you should review it regularly to make sure that it still reflects your wishes. Reasons to review your Will may include:
The arrival of children/grandchildren, a child becomes 18 or there is a death in the family
You have got married or entered a Civil Partnership. This automatically revokes your previous Will (unless your will expressly states that it’s made in contemplation of the marriage)
You may want to provide for your partner but also protect your assets for your children
Divorce or separation
Your acquiring assets or your existing assets having increased in value which may have Inheritance Tax consequences and you may need some tax planning advice.
You have acquired foreign assets. (If you have made a Will in another country then it is important that you make sure that this Will has not revoked your Will in that country and vice versa)