At Edmondson Hall we understand that making a Will can be a very thought-provoking and stressful experience. We appreciate that it is one of those things that many people would rather not think about and put off for as long as possible.
We are pleased to offer an efficient, dedicated client service for a fixed fee, which we will always confirm with you once we have your requirements.
We wish to meet with all of our clients but we understand that this may not be convenient for you during working hours. We have therefore made our Wills Questionnaire available on our website for you to download, complete and then return to us, following which we will make contact with you.
The aim of this article is to set out the advantages of making a Will and how easy it can actually be to give yourself some piece of mind.
What is a Will?
A ‘Will’ is a legal document that sets out who your money, investments and property (your ‘assets’) pass to when you die. It does not take effect until you die.
Do I have to make a Will?
No, in fact many people never make a Will.
What happens after I die if I have not made a Will?
The government ‘Intestacy Rules’ would determine how your assets would be divided among your relatives.
This may produce unintended consequences, such as your assets passing to a relative you did not want to benefit.
This can also cause practical problems. For example, in the situation of married persons (or Civil Partners) with children who die without a Will, the surviving husband, wife or Civil Partner would inherit £250,000.00 and the remainder (if any) of the assets would be divided between the survivor and the children equally. If the children are under the age of 18, then their share of the assets would be held in a Trust until they reached the age of 18. The survivor would have numerous legal obligations to manage the Trust. This may cause problems for the survivor, as the survivor may need the money in the Trust themselves, but cannot access it unless it is strictly for the benefit of the children. The children may also question what happened to the assets in the Trust when they reach the age of 18, thereby possibly causing a family argument. A simple Will could avoid this situation.
When should I make a Will?
Anyone who is age 18 or over can make a Will.
Given the uncertainty of life, it is important to make a Will as soon as possible as you never know when you may become incapable of doing so. Leaving it until you are elderly to make a Will may not be an option.
What should I include in my Will?
Every Will must name the persons who will have the responsibility to carry out your wishes in accordance with the law, they are known as your ‘Executors’. Your Executors may or may not be the same people you want to benefit from your Will. They could for example be family members, close friends or business partners
The Executors should be people that you trust to follow your Will and perform their legal duties.
Your ‘estate’ is the term given to all of your assets and debts when you die.
Many people include gifts of specific items such as family heirlooms. Such gifts are not included in the Intestacy Rules under which all such items are usually sold and divided among your relatives.
You may wish to provide that certain sums of money pass to certain persons, perhaps in recognition of friendship or support and again, this would not be possible under the Intestacy Rules.
Your Will could include important tax saving clauses, particularly if you have an unmarried partner or if you own a business or have interests in farming or agriculture.
Many people consider age 18 to be too young for someone to inherit under their Will and therefore include a higher age such as 21 or 25, this is not possible under the Intestacy Rules.
Your Will gives you the opportunity to outline your specific funeral wishes. Although the wishes are not legally binding, they are almost always followed.
The Will also gives you the ability to try to achieve the division of your estate, as you wish, between all of the people you want to benefit.
Who do I have to include in my Will?
Technically, you do not have to include any of your family and you could leave your estate to whomever you wish.
The law does however allow certain categories of people such as your husband, wife, Civil Partner, persons with whom you are living as husband, wife or Civil Partner or your children (or persons you treat as your children) to make a claim on your estate for what they consider they should have inherited from you. This may sound harsh considering that you can generally do as you wish with your assets during your lifetime and therefore you should also be able to do so after your death, but the law aims to help those left in a vulnerable position.
Your Will cannot simply be ignored.
If a claim is made on your estate after you die, then a Court must take into account various criteria to decide whether that claim is reasonable and if it is, the Court can only order that ‘reasonable financial provision’ be made for persons who have successfully claimed from your estate. This may be less than is actually claimed.
It is important to note that your estate can also be claimed from (perhaps even more likely) if the Intestacy Rules do not make adequate financial provision.
Why should I use a solicitor to make a Will?
A solicitor has had specific training to a high standard in the preparation of Wills.
A solicitor will be able to guide you efficiently through the process and they can identify any potential issues with how you wish to leave your estate in your Will. Solicitors must be regulated and insured so that you and your estate have adequate protection in the unlikely event that something goes wrong, this may not be true of all service providers offering Wills.
Many people may be tempted to make their own Wills to avoid the hassle of seeing a solicitor, however the danger in doing so is that important clauses may not be included and useful professional advice cannot be given. This could result in unforeseen consequences and a lot of stress for your family or intended beneficiaries when you die.
Do I ever need to change my Will?
Currently, your Will can never expire. You should however review your Will every 3 years to ensure that it still reflects your wishes.
Circumstances that may require you to change your Will could include marriage, divorce, the birth of children or grandchildren, a significant change in your assets or debts or changes in the law.
Would you like to make a Will? If so, please click here to download our questionnaire
Stephen Roberts – Private Client Solicitor
Edmondson Hall Solicitors and Sports Lawyers
25 Exeter Road, Newmarket, Suffolk, CB8 8AR
01638 560 556