Making a Will for Lasting Peace of Mind
Why is it important to make a will?
Research has suggested that over 60% of adults in the UK have yet to make a will, equating to around 30 million people. This opens up a wide array of issues for their family members if they should pass away without one. There are numerous reasons to make a will, and not all of them are due to financial reasons. We take a look at some of the more overlooked reasons below, and discuss what might happen should the unexpected happen and you pass before your will has been written or legalised.
Make a will to name your children’s guardian
If you have children under the age of 18, then it’s incredibly important to make a will in which their legal guardian is named. That means that you have complete say over who raises your children. If you don’t make this decision legally binding, then it will come down to the family court’s decision, who may make a choice that you wouldn’t agree with. Even if you’ve named friends and family to be godparents, unless legally bound in a will, then there is no guarantee your wishes will be followed.
Protect your unmarried partner
Marriage isn’t for everyone, in fact, over 3.2 million families are unmarried but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t in long-term, committed relationships. It does mean, however, that your unmarried partner won’t be entitled to anything from your estate, no matter how long you’ve been in your loving and committed relationship. Writing a will ensures that your partner is taken care of, regardless of whether or not you are married.
Make a will to name your pet’s guardian
For the millennial generation, beset with skyrocketing house prices, loaded with student debt, and unable to fill up their car with a full tank of fuel, pets, and dogs and cats especially, have taken on a much more integral role in their lives. And whilst some dogs have inherited fortunes, making a will to decide who cares for your pet and putting money aside for expenses is just as important as leaving them millions.
What happens when you fail to make a will?
When someone dies without making a will, or they have one which doesn’t adequately cover their whole estate or wasn’t witnessed and is therefore not legally binding, then they are known to have died ‘intestate,’ and their estate is shared out following the rules of intestacy. But what is intestacy and how can it impact an individual’s estate?
The Rules of Intestacy
When a person dies without leaving a valid or legal will their estate must be shared out following certain rules. These are referred to as ‘the rules of intestacy.’ These rules were laid down in the Administration of Estates Act 1925 and have been used to settle intestate issues ever since. The rules can seem quite complex, but once broken down they are fairly easy to follow. Of course, it would be easier if you used a firm of solicitors to prepare a will so that your estate can swiftly be awarded to the people you chose.
Who inherits when someone dies without a will
In general terms, if someone dies without leaving a will then their next of kin will inherit the estate, and it is the rules of intestacy that set out who the legal next of kin is when there isn’t a will. These rules are also used to determine how much the next of kin will inherit.
Married with no children
If the deceased were married or in a civil partnership, but had no children or grandchildren then the surviving spouse would be entitled to the whole estate. This includes husband or wife, even if the couple has separated but has not yet divorced, as divorcees cannot inherit from an ex-spouse’s estate.
Married with children
If the deceased was married or in a civil partnership and has children, then things become a little more complex. In this case, the surviving spouse inherits all of the partner’s personal possessions and all assets up to £270000. They also then inherit 50% of any of the estate left after the initial £270000. The remaining 50% is then shared out equally between the deceased’s children (or grandchildren if the children are also deceased.)
Unmarried with children
If the deceased was unmarried with children, then the issue is less complex, but by no means less fraught. In this case, the estate is shared equally between the children (or grandchildren) of the deceased but not between any stepchildren. This will also happen if the deceased was cohabiting with their partner, but weren’t married (normally referred to, incorrectly, as common-law partners) as the law only recognises marriage and civil partnerships as legally binding.
Unmarried and has no children
If someone passes intestate, has no children, is unmarried or divorced, then their close relatives become their beneficiaries. This has a specific order, however. Parents have the top priority, and then brothers and sisters who have the same parents as the deceased are entitled if there are no parents. If one of the siblings has died, then their children will inherit. Then it goes to half brothers and sisters before grandparents, aunts and uncles.
It seems simple from the above how not making a will, even if you are in the best of health or young, could lead to animosity, pain, and distress should the unthinkable happen. For the price it costs to reach out to an expert, you could save your family the pain of the unknown, and allow them to mourn in peace.