Today’s society sees more blended and non-traditional family arrangements than ever before.
Marriage rates are declining year on year with many couples deciding to live together as unmarried partners instead and sometimes have children from previous relationships. In these cases, there is a misbelief that their cohabitating partner will be provided for as their ‘next of kin’ upon their death.
Sadly, this is not the case. If you die intestate (i.e. without making a will), then the law decides how your estate will be divided up – and this might not be in line with your wishes and could even result in distant family members benefitting instead.
Writing a will is the only way to make sure that your loved ones will be provided for and your estate will pass to those that you have chosen.
So, what is a will?
A will is a document that tells everyone what should happen to your estate (being your assets and possessions) after your death. The will also allows you to appoint individuals (known as executors) who are given the legal authority to sort out and manage your affairs after your death.
But it is not all about money. Making a will allows you to appoint guardians to look after your children. If both parents have died and no provisions been made in a will, then the local authority or courts will be left to decide who should look after your children.
You may also have step or foster children who are a big part of your life, or even be your only children. The law does not make any provisions for them to inherit if there is no will.
There are other reasons for making a will:
- Reducing your inheritance tax bill
The amount of inheritance tax payable by your estate depends on how much you have and to whom you are leaving it to.
Anything left to your spouse or civil partner will be automatically exempt from tax. There are also additional reliefs available if you leave the property that you live into your children or grandchildren.
- Avoiding a family dispute
The last thing you would want is for there to be quarrels between the people you leave behind if your wishes are not made clear or there is no will.
A well prepared will can help avoid these disputes. Contested estates can not only be damaging to the family you leave behind but they can also be expensive if the distribution of your estate is challenged.
- Supporting a charity
The benefits of supporting a charity through your will can be two-fold. Not only are you supporting a worthwhile cause, but you could reduce the inheritance tax paid by your family if you leave more than 10% of your assets to a good cause.
Do I need to instruct a solicitor to prepare my will?
It is not necessary to instruct a solicitor to make a will. However, if you have a blended family arrangement or substantial assets, then solicitors can advise on tax planning through your wills and provide options for how to balance the different needs of the people who you want to benefit from your estate.
For more elderly clients, using solicitors will help minimise the risk of a will being challenged on the grounds of lack of capacity or undue influence by disgruntled family members who have been excluded from it. Solicitors will make sure that the people making the Will have the required capacity to do so.
If you would like to find out a little more about wills, and perhaps drafting one, you can speak with a local SFE lawyer today. Find one here: https://sfe.legal/find-a-lawyer/
Solicitor at Myerson Solicitors
Jaima is a solicitor in wills, trusts and probate department at Myerson Solicitors based in Altrincham, Cheshire. She specialises in the preparation of wills, the administration of estates and advising on Lasting Powers of Attorneys.
Jaima is a member of the Society of Trusts and Estate Practitioners (STEP) and completed her qualification in 2020. She is also a full accredited member for Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE), a Dementia Friend and a member of the Private Client Section with the Law Society.
Jaima’s previous experience has included working at firms both in private practice and in-house. Her broad range of experience enables her to provide a professional, friendly and personalised legal service tailored to clients’ individual needs.
Myerson are proud to be ranked as a ‘Top Tier’ law firm in the prestigious international directory The Legal 500 and commended by The Times ‘Best Law Firms 2019’, Myerson Solicitors provide a truly high-quality and bespoke service. Visit the Myerson website to find out more.