With a Will in place, your property and affairs will be dealt with in accordance with your wishes when you die. Without one, the statutory rules of intestacy will apply and your loved ones may face legal complications in carrying out your wishes, if they know them. A Will can also:
- Save time and costs in administering your estate after your death
- Let you provide for unmarried partners, friends or charities
- Help reduce the effect of inheritance tax
- Appoint guardians for your children
Without a Will, you’ll die ‘intestate’ and statutory rules will apply. Under these rules
- You’ll have no choice or control over who inherits your estate
- Your spouse or civil partner may only be entitled to part of your estate (it will not necessarily pass wholly to them)
- There may be no provision for your children, grandchildren, or other relatives or dependants
- Any children that do benefit will be entitled to their share at age 18, which you may feel is too young
- Unmarried partners do not benefit
- Your estate may end up with an inheritance tax bill that is higher than it needs to be
If you have young children, your Will can appoint legal guardians who will have parental responsibility for them and look after them until they turn 18. If you die without appointing a guardian, the Court will decide who will act, and this could be someone who is neither related nor known to your children.
Some people like to state their wishes here (burial, cremation etc.) but it’s not obligatory.
Gifts and Legacies
One of the most important decisions when making a Will is who inherits your assets. You can make gifts or specific possessions such as jewellery, furniture, family photographs or other personal items. You can also leave people gifts of money, shares or property.
Once the specific legacies are arranged, your Will then states who’ll receive the remainder of your assets, and in what proportions. This could be, for example, family, friends, or your favourite charity.
Gifts to children
Children cannot hold property left to them until they turn 18. We can advise on the best way to make such gifts, which might include, if you wish, raising the age at which they inherit to (say) 21 or 25. We can also advise on issues such as the best way to provide for a disabled child, or ensuring that step-children are included under the terms of the Will.
Inheritance Tax (IHT)
We can advise you on the best way to structure your Will to mitigate the future impact of IHT.
You’ll need to appoint people you trust to deal with your estate. These people are called Executors and can be members of your family, friends or a professional. If you wish to have professional executors, RDP Law Limited can act either alone or alongside someone else of your choice.
You should review your Will regularly to make sure that it still reflects your circumstances. There are certain life events that automatically affect your Will:
- Marriage or entering into a civil partnership invalidates any existing Will, unless it expressly states that it was drafted with that marriage or partnership in mind.
- Divorce automatically excludes your former spouse from your Will, but only on issue of the decree absolute.
- A separation from your spouse with no formal divorce has no effect on your Will, so any gifts to them will still stand regardless of the separation.
- As an unmarried partner has no entitlement if you die without a Will, so you should always review your Will if you begin a new relationship.
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