The importance of making a will
Nov 11, 2015
Some individuals regard making a will as somehow tempting fate. That is a ridiculous notion of a course but it often causes the process of making a will to be delayed or even forgotten completely. Dying intestate (dying without leaving a legally valid will) can cause all sorts of problems for loved ones because it complicates the administration of the deceased’s estate. Much stress for those left behind can be avoided by spending a short time with a solicitor who will draw up a will for a very reasonable charge. Most solicitors will then store the will in their strongroom at no charge.
Making a will is easier and less time-consuming than you may think but it must comply with certain rules and be formally witnessed and signed by at least two people who are not beneficiaries. Drawing up your own will is not recommended because if it is not completed/worded correctly it could be open to legal challenge and your estate could be divided in a way that does not comply with your wishes.
What happens if I don't make a will?
If you die with no will you are deemed intestate and the law will decide what happens to your money, property and possessions by application of the intestacy rules. Usually, the estate will go to your nearest blood relative or your partner by marriage, but if you have children your estate depending on its size may partially go to them. If the children are under 18 years of age, an administrator must manage the estate on their behalf until they come of age, charging an annual fee. Obviously, this state of affairs is far from ideal.
If you are living with someone but are not married or in a civil partnership then he or she is not entitled to anything from your estate - even the home you've lived in if your partner doesn’t actually own it - unless you've named him or her as a beneficiary in your will. You can also state in your will who should be your children's legal guardian if you die when they are still underage and you do not have a partner; if you don't do this, in some circumstances they could be placed in care while a decision as to who should look after them is made.
Probate and execution
You should appoint a family member, trusted friend or a professional as the executor of your will. You can appoint more than one executor if you wish. It is their responsibility to make sure that your final wishes are properly carried out, and that inheritance tax and other debts are paid. This is known as obtaining probate and must usually be obtained whether there is a will or not. Probate allows the distribution of assets as set out in the will.
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