Opportunity to express your preferences and ensure your wishes are respected
For residents of England or Wales who pass away without creating a legally valid Will, the government takes responsibility for determining the allocation of assets.
The Crown will claim your property and possessions if you have no surviving family members. In cases where you leave behind children under 18 years of age, decisions about their care, financial management, education, and living situations will be made by others.
By drafting a Will, you have the opportunity to express your preferences and ensure your wishes are respected and ensure that your assets and possessions (referred to as your ‘estate’) are distributed according to your wishes after you pass away is crucial.
By designating your chosen beneficiaries, such as family members or charities, you can provide for those who matter most to you.
Your estate comprises personal belongings, as well as assets like:
Your home and any other property you own
Savings in the bank and building society accounts
National Savings, such as premium bonds
Insurance, such as life assurance or an endowment policy
Pension funds that include a lump sum payment on death
Investments such as stocks and shares or investment trusts
Jewellery, antiques and other personal belongings
Furniture and other household contents
Debts may include:
A credit card balance
A bank overdraft
Complicating matters for your family
Dying without a valid Will can complicate matters for your family, as your estate will be divided following intestacy rules. These regulations allow only married partners, registered civil partners, and specific, close relatives to inherit your estate.
Unmarried or unregistered partners living together have no right to inherit under these circumstances.
Creating a Will is essential if you:
Own property or a business
Possess savings, investments, or insurance policies
Property and possessions transferred to the Crown
Without a valid Will in England or Wales, the law determines the distribution of your assets. Your property and possessions will be transferred to the Crown if no living family members exist.
By drafting a Will, you can minimise Inheritance Tax payments and ensure that your loved ones, friends, and favoured charities receive their intended portions. This legal document is a vital component of financial planning and provides clear instructions for asset distribution.
Same-sex partners not married or registered in a civil partnership
Creating a Will is particularly important for same-sex partners not married or registered in a civil partnership. The law doesn’t automatically grant cohabitants the same rights as married couples or registered civil partners. Consequently, long-term cohabitants may receive nothing without a Will in place.
A Will is also crucial for those with children or dependents who cannot care for themselves. It eliminates uncertainty regarding their care and provision in the event of your death, ensuring they are looked after according to your wishes.
Distribution of your property and possessions
A Will outlines the distribution of your property and possessions (your estate) after your death.
There are numerous reasons to draft a Will:
Decide how your assets are allocated; without a Will, the law determines the distribution
Ensure provision for unmarried partners, including same-sex relationships
Specify whether to leave anything to a former partner if divorced
Minimise potential Inheritance Tax payments
Address potential claims on your estate by financial dependents
Include a trust in your Will for various purposes (e.g., providing for minors or disabled individuals, tax savings, or asset protection)
Address situations involving non-UK permanent residency or foreign property ownership
Establish provisions for business ownership
Before drafting a Will, consider its contents:
Evaluate your financial assets, property, and possessions
Determine your desired beneficiaries
Designate guardians for children under 18 years old
Appoint an executor to manage your estate and execute your wishes after death
Passing on your estate
Executors, named in your Will, are responsible for carrying out your wishes after your passing. They oversee various tasks, including arranging your funeral, informing relevant parties and organisations of your death, gathering information about your assets and liabilities, addressing tax bills, paying debts, and distributing your estate to designated beneficiaries.
Various gifts, known as ‘legacies,’ can be included in your Will. You may wish to bequeath an object with sentimental value to a specific individual or provide a fixed monetary amount to a friend or cherished charity.
After determining these gifts, you can designate the remaining estate’s distribution and proportions among your chosen recipients. Once your Will is complete, store it securely and inform your executor, close friend, or relative of its location.
Reviewing your Will
Periodically reviewing your Will every five years or following significant life events (such as separation, marriage, divorce, having children, or moving) is recommended.
Life changes may require the preparation of a new Will or amending an existing Will.
These are the most common:
Buying your first home
A significant change in your financial situation, i.e. inheriting money
Starting/running a business
Reflect on your current intentions
To make any changes, utilise a Codicil (an addition or amendment to a Will) or create an entirely new Will. This ensures that your Will remains up-to-date and accurately reflects your current intentions for your estate’s distribution.