Having a Will alleviates any doubt of what your wishes are after your death. You may assume you know who will inherit your Estate if you die intestate (without a Will) but you may not be correct and your spouse or civil partner may not receive as much as you would have intended them to. If you have no living relatives then it could end up going to the Crown.
If you have a partner but are not married, the intestacy laws dictate that you are treated as a single person and your surviving partner may get nothing without appointing a Solicitor and applying to the Courts.
If you have young children you should appoint persons who will take care of them (see Guardians below).
In the case of remarriage, a Will enables you to make provision for your children but also protects the position of your new spouse.
Probate must be obtained before assets can be distributed (see our Probate page). This process takes on average nine months in England, but if you die intestate it will likely take a lot longer for your beneficiaries to inherit.
A carefully planned Will can help reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax payable on your Estate.
When you should review your Will
We advise you to review your Will every couple of years to ensure it is up to date and still reflects your wishes.
If you move it is not always necessary to update your Will unless you have made a specific bequest of that property or a property trust has been included in it.
If anyone in your Will changes their name or address your Will does not need to be updated however we would recommend you make a note of the new details (never mark the Will itself) and keep the details with the Will.
If your circumstances change then you MUST ensure you review your Will. The following list is not exhaustive:
- You move abroad;
- Your financial situation changes;
- Your family grows;
- A beneficiary dies;
- You marry or enter into a civil partnership (this automatically revokes a Will unless a clause has been included to the contrary);
- You separate or divorce.
There may be changes in legislation affecting Tax, Wills or trusts which makes it advisable to update your Will (we aim to advise our clients on any such changes).
Our service is for the lifetime of the documents we have produced and as such we are happy to answer any questions you or your Executors, Trustees or Guardians may have. We do not charge for giving our advice via phone or e-mail. If we are instructed to undertake work then we will discuss fees and disbursements prior to commencing work.
RULES OF INTESTACY – what happens if you die without a Will
Guardians are persons you appoint in your Will to take care of your children should you die before they reach the age of 18.
If you die without making such provision social services or the Courts will appoint guardians and may choose people you would not want.
This is a very important decision and should not be taken lightly. There are many things to be considered and you should speak to the intended guardians to confirm they would be happy to take on this role.
It is only possible to appoint a guardian to those children for which the law regards you as having “parental responsibility” and you must be one of the following:
- The mother or father of a children who were married to each other at the time of the child’s birth;
- The child’s mother whether or not she was married to the father at the time of the child’s birth;
- The father of the child if he marries the natural mother;
- The father of a child, born since December 2003, who was not married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth but is named on the birth certificate;
- The father of a child who was not married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth but who has been given parental responsibility by a valid parental responsibility agreement entered into with the child’s mother;
- A person granted parental responsibility by a Court;
- A properly appointed guardian.
By appointing guardians you cannot take away the rights of a person, surviving you, who also has parental responsibility for any child of yours.
Before making a guardian appointment you should consider:
- The financial implications of such appointment;
- Where the guardians live;
- The age of the guardians;
- The stability of their circumstance;
- What relationship they have with the children.
If you appoint your parents as guardians we recommend you choose replacements to act in their place should they be unwilling or unable to act.
You can write a letter to your guardians containing your wishes in respect of your children’s upbringing. This letter is not legally binding but is aimed to give the guardians direction and aid them in their role. This can be updated as frequently as you wish without having to change your Will.