Everyone, young or old, should make a Will, not a popular pastime admittedly, but more important than you might think. There are serious consequences of not having a Will. Should you die before you partner, if you are not married your partner is not your next of kin and will not inherit unless you make a Will specifying that they should receive your assets. If you die without a Will the Rules of Intestacy automatically apply – there is nothing you can do about this.
These Rules mean that anything you own (except a house, which may pass by survivorship if it is jointly owned with your partner) passes to your nearest relative. That will be your spouse if you are married, but if you are not married it will be your parents, siblings or children.
Even if you are married, if you do not make a Will the Rules of Intestacy still apply. This sometimes has bizarre and unforeseen consequences. Under these rules the surviving spouse, if there are children, receives just £250,000. The rest they only have a life interest in and will pass to the children. This means that for someone dying, say owning a house worth £300,000 or £400,000 plus savings, the surviving husband or wife will not receive this absolutely. The children will have an interest in the house or some of the savings. Probably not what the deceased wanted or intended. You may well want your assets to pass to your children eventually, but generally people would rather their surviving spouse owned their house absolutely beforehand.
Sometimes people make handwritten Wills, which although in their own mind set out very clearly what is to happen, in fact leave matters far from clear. One example would be a husband saying “I leave everything to my wife and then to my children”. This in fact may give the wife a life interest, not an absolute interest. This means that she for instance owns the house subject to the children’s wishes, it is not hers to sell, it actually belongs to them and she only has a right to live in there for the rest of her life.
Another reason for making a Will is to appoint Testamentary Guardians for your children. Obviously in the first instance you would want your partner to care for your children, but if you both died – what is to happen to your children? It is a good idea to think about this in advance then should the worst happen there is at least some clear provision made and instructions left.
You may also want to make some specific gifts – certain pieces of jewellery or the Harley Davidson or the grandfather clock, or whatever, you may want to pass to a particular friend or relative. Making a Will also enables you to appoint Executors and Trustees, Executors are the people who will look after your affairs when you die. If you are elderly you perhaps do not want the burden to fall upon your surviving partner, or at least not on their own. You can appoint one of your children or a professional such as a solicitor or accountant – especially if your affairs are complicated. If you own or run your own business then certainly you should appoint an Executor qualified to take over the running of this business.
By making some useful provisions, it does not mean the worst is going to happen. It just means that if it does, then those left behind have some practical assistance and your affairs are not left in complete disarray.
So, whatever your age, whatever your circumstances, there is generally a good reason to make a Will and it does not need to be expensive or complicated.
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