Unfortunately, it is common for people to feel they do not need to prepare a will. This could be because they believe that they are ‘too young’, ‘fit and well’ or that they do not have enough assets to justify making one. People do not always understand what will happen to their estate when they die and therefore do not appreciate the importance of preparing a will.
When a person makes a will, they are actively planning which people and/or charities they would like to inherit from their estate when they die. A will is a document which is created specifically for you to reflect your wishes. When preparing your will, your solicitor can also discuss with you whether there are any steps that you can take either during your life time or in the will itself to minimise the amount of inheritance tax you may have to pay. A will can include provisions in relation to your assets, funeral preferences and it can even appoint a guardian for any minor children you may have.
The importance of making a will should not be underestimated. Without a will, you are not in control of to whom your estate will pass when you die. If a person dies without having a valid will, the intestacy rules apply and these inflexible rules will dictate how your assets are allocated.
This means that those you consider closest to you may not inherit from your estate. Many individuals are unaware that unmarried partners and step-children cannot inherit under the intestacy rules, regardless of how close a relationship you may have had or how long you have been in a relationship or cohabiting. A step-child or unmarried partner will only inherit from your estate if they are provided for in your will. The only alternative is to consider making a claim for financial provision through the Courts after your death which is stressful and costly.
Irrespective of your age or current state of health, it is essential that everyone considers preparing a will to set out their wishes. A will should always be reviewed when your circumstances change, to ensure it continues to reflect your wishes over time. In our experience, it is best to have a will drawn up professionally to ensure that it is valid and deals with your estate in line with your wishes. Having a will prepared professionally will also help to minimise the risk of a future challenge to your will, which can be stressful for your surviving friends and family and can also have the effect of significantly reducing the estate available for distribution in accordance with your wishes.
If you would like to take advice in relation to estate planning and preparing a will, please contact any member of our Wills, Trusts and Probate Team. If you require advice in relation to the possibility of contesting, disputing or challenging a will a then please contact Karen Bower-Brown, Robert Pearson or Alice Butterworth.