Making a Will gives you the opportunity of ordering your affairs for after your death.
We all have a natural reluctance to contemplate our own death, but it is the one thing in life that is guaranteed. If you don’t leave a Will then the law will step in and a rigid set of rules, known as the Intestacy Rules, will dictate what happens to your property and your money.
By making a Will you can control how your property and affairs will be dealt with. It will ensure that your wishes are properly taken into consideration and it will make life much easier for those you leave behind.
There are lots of good practical reasons to make a Will. Here are 10 of the best:-
Providing financial security for loved ones;
Making gifts of possessions and money;
Paying less inheritance tax;
Appointing guardians for your children;
Choosing your executors;
Avoiding inheritance disputes;
Creating a life interest;
Specifying wishes for your funeral;
Making arrangements for your pets;
Avoiding the unintended consequences of intestacy.
1. PROVIDING FINANCIAL SECURITY FOR LOVED ONES
A Will is the most effective way of ensuring that those closest to you are adequately provided for after you have gone. It gives important peace of mind not only to you but also your nearest and dearest who will know that steps have been taken to provide them with the financial security they will require.
This is particularly important for unmarried couples as their relationship will not be recognised by the Intestacy Rules which apply when someone dies without leaving a valid Will. Co-habitees do not have any rights in their deceased partner’s estate under the Intestacy Rules, so if their interests are not protected by a Will they could be left facing severe financial hardship.
It is also important if you have competing interests between a spouse or co-habitee on the one hand and children from a previous relationship on the other. By making a Will you can ensure that you provide for all the people you care about.
2. MAKING GIFTS OF POSSESSIONS AND MONEY
If you own family heirlooms, items of sentimental value, antique furniture, valuable jewellery or precious works of art you may want to make sure that they go to a particular member of the family or a valued friend who will appreciate and enjoy them.
Giving instructions in a Will is the obvious way to do this. Usually the gift will be a “specific bequest” but gifts of this kind can be dealt with by way of a list of instructions written by you.
A Will is also a perfect vehicle for making a gift of money. Making a Will is a good time to acknowledge your closest friends and family or remember your favourite good cause with a legacy.
3. PAYING LESS INHERITANCE TAX
When advising you about making a Will we shall collect sufficient information to find out whether inheritance tax is likely to be paid upon your death.
Careful Will drafting with the help of a specialist solicitor can have a significant impact upon the level of inheritance tax which will be paid. It provides an opportunity to assess the position and consider what steps can be taken to minimise the inheritance tax liability. The small cost of making a Will can represent excellent value when compared to the tax savings that can be made.
4. APPOINTING GUARDIANS FOR YOUR CHILDREN
This is particularly important if you have young children and want to provide appropriate care for them after your death. It is, of course, advisable to consult the prospective guardians to make sure that they are willing to act before naming them.
5. CHOOSING YOUR EXECUTORS
A Will enables you to decide who will be responsible for administering your affairs after your death and who will be responsible for making sure your wishes are carried out.
This means that you get to choose people who you know will be suitable and who are likely to best represent your wishes.
Executors are responsible for administering the estate, including the distribution of personal effects and the contents of the house. It is of vital importance that the right people are chosen. If you do not make a Will then the law will choose for you.
If you have no suitable family or friends to act as your executors, or if you think it might be useful to appoint someone from outside the family (to avoid the possibility of arguments) then you can appoint a solicitor to act as executor.
6. AVOIDING INHERITANCE DISPUTES
A full and proper consideration of how your dependants are going to be provided for after your death is essential if you wish to avoid an unpleasant (and costly) inheritance dispute arising once you have gone.
Whilst in England and Wales we have testamentary freedom, the law does enable certain categories of applicants to make a claim against an estate if the deceased failed to make reasonable financial provision for them. This includes children, spouses and co-habitees. If reasonable financial provision is not made a dependant can challenge the distribution of the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Claims under the 1975 Act can be made whether or not there is a Will. However, a Will does enable the testator to record their wishes and offer an explanation for how the estate is to be divided. This can be taken into consideration if the Will is contested and it could even prevent a challenge altogether.
7. CREATING A LIFE INTEREST
Life Interests in property and capital have been used in Wills and estate planning for generations.
A Life Interest entitles the recipient to enjoy the use of the property or the income that the capital generates during their lifetime, and upon their death the asset will then pass to the beneficiary of your choosing.
Life Interests are increasingly popular among people who have remarried. If you are in a second marriage, chances are that you will have children from the first who may not be happy with the idea of everything being left to your new partner. A Life Interest (particularly in the matrimonial home) is often a convenient way to provide a roof over the head of your spouse or partner and still protect the children’s inheritance in the long term, keeping everybody happy!
8. SPECIFYING WISHES FOR YOUR FUNERAL
You might want to go out to the music of Frank Sinatra, or perhaps you would prefer a bit of The Sex Pistols or the Bee Gees. Whatever your preference, making a Will enables you to leave instructions on your final farewell.
Whether it’s a quiet wake or a good old fashioned knees up at The Red Lion, this is your chance to have a say on your send off. And if you have any special wishes about your burial or cremation then this is the place to do it. You can even specify in your Will that you want to donate your body to medical research.
9. MAKING ARRANGEMENTS FOR YOUR PETS
You may be concerned about who will look after your pets after you have gone. One solution is to nominate someone in your Will who you can trust to make sensible decisions for your animals. You may wish to consider a modest legacy to help cover the extra costs involved in caring for the animal and meeting food and vets bills.
10. AVOIDING THE UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF INTESTACY
If you die without leaving a Will, your estate will be distributed in accordance with a rigid set of rules known as the “Intestacy Rules”. The Intestacy Rules dictate how a deceased’s property and money will be divided. In some situations this will broadly reflect the deceased’s general intentions. However, in certain circumstances the rules will produce an outcome that is at odds with what the deceased would have wanted and can lead to dependants suffering unintended hardship or family disputes arising.