If you haven’t got a will, you don’t have control over what happens to your money and assets after you die.
That means your wealth may not go to your chosen beneficiaries, and could cause lots of lengthy and costly legal issues for the loved ones you leave behind.
Here are our top reasons why you should make sure you have a legally binding will in place.
Put yourself in control
If you die without a valid will, strict inheritance laws, known as the Rules of Intestacy, will apply.
The rules in England and Wales state that once any tax and debts have been paid, the first £270,000 of what remains, your personal possessions and half of any outstanding wealth will go to your spouse or civil partner, with the rest going to your children once they’ve turned 18.
However, we should stress that the Rules of Intestacy vary in different parts of the UK. For example, a surviving spouse or civil partner in Scotland is entitled to ‘prior rights’, which includes a share in the family home up to a value of £473,000, as long as the property is in Scotland and the partner was living there at the time of death.
Furthermore, in Scotland, spouses and children have legal rights which give them a claim on your estate even if you’ve not mentioned them in your will, or if they feel they haven’t been adequately provided for. By contrast, a person living in England would have to apply to Court to make such a claim.
And unlike in England and Wales, a will in Scotland isn’t invalidated if you get married.
Bearing in mind these crucial differences in the rules, it’s worth getting professional advice about what to include in your will, so you can be confident it accurately reflects what you want to happen to your money when you die, and the state isn’t making these decisions for you.
Make sure you can leave money to your partner
While the Rules of Intestacy enable a share of your money to go to your spouse or civil partner, there is no provision for unmarried partners. So if you’re living with your partner but not married, they won’t inherit a penny or have any legal claim to your estate, even if you’ve been together for many years and have children together.
Having a legally valid will in place is the only way to guarantee that you can leave money to your partner if you haven’t yet tied the knot.
Reflect your changing circumstances
As time passes, your circumstances can change dramatically. Perhaps you’ve got married, had children, or got divorced, or maybe you’ve bought a property or invested in a business.
You can update your will throughout your life, so it accurately reflects your current situation at any given time.
Make childcare provision
A will allows you to nominate a guardian for your children if you and your partner die. Otherwise, a Court will have to make this decision.
Reduce your tax liability
By writing a will, you can make sure you’re not paying more than you need to in inheritance tax.
Help your loved ones avoid complicated legal processes
If you write a will, you can choose who you want to handle your estate. Otherwise, a Court will have to decide, and this can not only be costly and time-consuming for your loved ones, but also extremely upsetting and could lead to family disputes.
By being clear about your wishes and who is responsible for making key decisions, you’re much more likely to avoid causing any unnecessary friction at a time when feelings might already be running high.
State your funeral wishes
If you have particular wishes for your funeral, such as where you want it to be, whether you want to be buried or cremated and what readings you’d like at the service, a will is a good place to make this known.
Again, it makes it easier for your family and loved ones at a distressing time.
Leave money to a good cause
You can use your will to leave a share of your estate to a charity or cause that is important to you.
Get peace of mind
Ultimately, having a will in place means you can be sure your wealth will go to your chosen recipients and be distributed in line with your wishes.
That can give you great confidence and peace of mind, as you know you’re not leaving anything to chance.
For advice on writing a will and planning your finances to make the most of your inheritance, please get in touch with us, and we’ll be happy to speak with you.