Last Will and Testament
According to latest statistics, each year 250,000 people die without leaving a Will. Many of the people we advise are extremely surprised to learn what would happen to their assets if they died without a will. For example, married couples often assume that their assets would automatically pass to their surviving spouse. This is not necessarily the case. In certain circumstances, the surviving spouse might have to share the estate with the children or brothers and sisters of the deceased or even their children.
What is a Will?
A Will more formally known as a Last Will and Testament is a legal document whereby the writer sets out their directions and wishes as to how they wish for their affairs, money, property and finances to be dealt with upon their death.
What if I die without a Will?
If you die without a Will you are said to die intestate. If you die intestate, this means that your money and your affairs are dealt with in accordance with Section 46 of the Administration of Estates Act 1925. These are more commonly known as the intestacy rules.
The main consideration with dying intestate is that the intestacy rules are pre-determined. The rules are set out by law as to how your estate should be distributed following your death in the absence of you having a Will. This may of course have an undesired outcome for you, leaving friends and loved ones that you would have otherwise wanted to benefit.
It has become even more important to have a Will of recent as intestate estates take a lot longer when applying for probate (Letters of Administration) with the court than they do if you were to die with a Will.
What should I include within my Will?
The answer to this is “as much detail possible”. Your solicitor will take you through details of what you should include within your Will when they speak with you. To give you an idea, the following are common in most Wills:
Details of your chosen Executors and Trustees;
Details of any pecuniary legacies you wish to leave. These are specific gifts of money gifted in your Will;
Details of any specific legacies you wish to leave. These are items that you wish to gift under your Will (these may include any heirlooms or sentimental items such as a wedding ring, engagement ring, watches etc);
Details of your residuary estate. This is the remainder of your estate that you wish to gift following the payment of any debts and/or funeral expenses and any other gifts mentioned in the Will etc;
If you have children under the age of 18, details of any guardian(s) you wish to appoint for these children;
Details of funeral wishes. Your preferences over burial or cremation etc.
Your Will must be tailored to the your wishes. Your instructions for your Will should be taken in detail by your solicitor and can include some of the above considerations. The above list is non-exhaustive.
How soon should I be making a Will?
It is important for you to make a Will as soon as possible particularly, if you have concerns over what should happen to your estate should you die. If you have children, it is more so important to have a Will to ensure that they are provided for following your death and that you have appointed Testamentary Guardians in place should you die and they are still under the age of 18.