It is my firm advice that everyone should make a Will, but if you don’t then it is important to be aware of the consequences of not having one. Without having a Will in place at the time of your death, or if your Will is no longer valid, the law dictates how your estate will be divided in accordance with the Intestacy Rules. These rules could potentially result in your loved ones not benefiting from your estate in the way in which you would have wanted.
Why make a Will?
Below are some key points of why you should make a Will to help protect your family and assets.
- To avoid your assets being distributed in accordance with the Intestacy Rules which could mean, for instance, your spouse not inheriting all of your estate
- To ensure that those you wish to inherit your assets on your death get them
- To nominate executors of your choice to deal with the distribution of your estate
- To nominate your preferred guardians of your children
- To make small personal gifts
- To take advantage of tax saving strategies.
When to update your Will and things to remember
The general advice is to review your Will every 5 years, or if you’ve had a change in circumstances in the family particularly births, deaths, decisions to marry, divorce, form or dissolve UK civil partnerships.
On marriage or entering a civil partnership (or remarriage or a new civil partnership), your old Will is automatically revoked and has no effect, unless it has been made in contemplation of that marriage or civil partnership and contains a relevant statement to that effect. If you pass away without making a new Will your estate will pass to a list of your relatives specified by law under the Intestacy Rules.
On divorce, any gift in your old Will to your ex-spouse or civil partner is cancelled as is their appointment as Executor but the rest of the Will stands. This can create problems so normally it is better to make a new Will.
The pitfalls of making a DIY Will
Homemade or “DIY” Wills have become a popular option over the last few years. The appeal is understandable with costs starting from as little as £10 for a Will pack, and there are also many online companies offering to make your Will for you for a low fee. However, there are disadvantages that comes along with homemade Wills and below are just some to keep in mind before making the commitment.
1. Poor wording and mistakes – Without legal training, DIY Wills can be a minefield. If your wording is incorrect or unclear, you run the risk of your wishes not being fulfilled.
2. Witnesses – DIY Wills are often incorrectly signed and witnessed, which leads to them ultimately being invalid. This is where the presence of a qualified professional is beneficial, as they ensure mishaps are avoided.
3. Complexities – If you own property abroad, you have foreign investments, or you own a business, you should seek assistance when you it comes to drafting your Will. You want to make sure everything goes to the right person, and complex scenarios aren’t easily catered for in the one-size-fits-all DIY option.
A Will is a legal document, and, as such, legal advice should be sought when you’re in the process of drawing one up. Whether your Will is simple or multi-faceted, the advice that a professional can give you is invaluable and can get you to think about things that may have been overlooked. Having in place a valid Will ensures your loved ones will be well looked after when the time comes.