Update your Will

28/03/2022

A Will is a very important document which ensures that your estate passes to those you wish to benefit in the event of your death.

Without a valid or properly executed Will the law determines who inherits under your estate. This is known as the intestacy laws. Here we explain some of the most common points we get asked in relation to wills.

‘I do not need a Will; it will all pass to my common law husband/wife/partner’

Unfortunately, unless you are legally married or in a civil partnership your partner will not automatically inherit from your estate. The Law will determine who is next in line to inherit and this could be someone you have not seen in years or do not even know. Your partner will also not thank you if they must bring an expensive claim against your estate for financial provision, which may not even succeed. In some cases, this claim may even be against your shared children. Therefore, it is important to have a Will drawn up.

Contrary to popular belief your estate does not all go to the queen or government if no one can be found. Heir hunters have several years before then to trace an individual’s family tree. Therefore, even a simple Will leaving your estate to friends or charities can stop that long distant cousin, twice removed from inheriting from your estate.

Did you know that marriage revokes a Will?

If you get married a second time, it is important to review your situation beforehand to ‘make it in contemplation of marriage’ so it cannot be revoked. If you are getting married again and your previous Will is revoked, it may mean the beneficiaries of your original Will end up with nothing or very little as the first £270,000 of your sole assets pass to the person you have married/entered into a civil partnership with and the remainder (if there is anything left) being divided equally between your new spouse and children equally.

‘I do not need a Will; I do not have anything to leave to anyone’

This is fair point for many people but is missing out some key things that a will covers. Who is going to have authority to talk to your banks on your behalf, close your accounts, arrange your funeral and empty the contents of your house? If you would prefer this to be someone you know and trust, a Will would enable you to appoint them as your Executors so they can deal with these formalities on your behalf.
A Will is not just a financial document. It can cover other important aspects like guardians for your children, who looks after their money until they are old enough and enables you to protect vulnerable beneficiaries such as those that may not be good with money or have health problems by creating a Will Trust in their favour.

‘I do not need a Will; I have Power of Attorney in place’

Unfortunately Lasting Powers of Attorney deal with Health & Welfare and Property & Financial decisions during an individual’s lifetime and any authority under them ends on passing. Therefore, it is important to do a Will to determine who manages your affairs on death.

Did you know a Will should be reviewed periodically, every 3-5 years or when your circumstances change?

If you have had a falling out with someone, a person benefiting under your Will has died or you have got married again, is your Will still following your wishes? The only way to be sure is to regularly check and update it where needed.

‘I can do a Will cheaply myself online’

You may be able to find a bargain way to write a will but is the risk that it isn’t legal worth the financial saving? A Will has to be correctly executed for it to be a valid legal document. Any ambiguity in the drafting or phrasing of it can mean it is invalid or leave it open to challenge. Incorrectly drafted and witnessed Wills take longer to correct after an individual dies and, in some instances, saving some money at the drafting stage results in claims and challenges which cost thousands to remedy at a later stage. The bargain was not such a bargain after all!

Most law firms will store your original Will for free, without any ongoing storage charges which means you are just paying for the price of the Will and their expertise. This also makes the Will easier to locate in the future.

To ensure that your Will is still fit for purpose, it is important to review it bearing the following points in mind:

  • The Inheritance Tax rules may have changed since you last wrote your will, and this could impact the financial aspects dealt with in your will. 
  • You may have got married for a second time and although you would like to let your partner carry on living in your house if you die before them, you may want to ensure it passes to your children after death. Without detailing this in a legal document, the laws of marriage mean your estate would pass to your legal partner and not your children from your first marriage.
  • You may be having to leave your house to go into a care home and want to know what your options are, especially if your spouse is still living in the matrimonial home.
  • A signed note is not sufficient, a Will needs to be witnessed correctly for it to be valid.
  • Sometimes, the signing clause needs to be adapted as the individual may not be able to read documents, have bad eyesight or be unable to sign their name.
  • You may need to see a financial advisor or a pension specialist because of the discussions had when you did your Will. Perhaps a medical professional to confirm you were of sound mind, to mitigate claims being made in the future if your Will is going to be controversial.

Therefore, it is important to see a qualified individual who is insured when dealing with an important document like your Will. Not only will they be up to date with the current legislation, but they may ask you questions which you had not even thought of before. Why leave such an important document to chance?

For more information please contact our Private Client department here.

This article was written by Julia Sood, Solicitor in our Private Client Team. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of March 2022.

28/03/2022

Authors

Julia Sood

Solicitor

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