A Will is a legal document which sets out how your assets are to be distributed on your death. It is the most basic form of estate planning and is a pertinent and valuable legal document which all individuals should have in place. Often people think that only very wealthy individuals, or those with complicated assets need Wills. There are, however, many good reasons to have a Will. If you are a parent with small children, you need to prepare for the unthinkable and this is where the Will element of the estate plan comes in. Your Will can set out who you want to care for your children and who is to have carriage of the funds to care for your children in the event that both parents die before the children reach adulthood. In the absence of a Will which sets out these matters, the court will step in and decide who will raise your children, which is ultimately an important decision every parent wants to have control and decision over.
One of the best reasons to make a Will is to ensure that you have full control over your estate after your day, thereby avoiding any unnecessary arguments between loved ones.
If you and your partner are unmarried or are in a civil partnership, your partner won’t have an automatic right to inherit if you don’t have a Will.
Your Will can help you plan to save your estate money on taxes. You can also give gifts and charitable donations which can assist in offsetting the estate tax.
A common reason for not making a Will is the unwillingness to accept death. Having a Will will provide you with that comfort and reassurance for the future.
Your Will can be updated as often as you require and in fact it is recommended that you review your Will every 2-3 years in line with changes to your circumstances and particularly at pivotal moments in your life, such as divorce or the birth of a child. A subsequent marriage will invalidate your Will and a new Will will always need to be drafted upon marriage. Your new Will automatically replaces the old Will and ideally the time to make changes is when you are of sound mind and in good health.
What happens if I don’t have a Will?
If you die without making a Will, you are said to die intestate. In those circumstances, your estate (money, assets and property) is distributed in accordance with the rules set out under the Succession Act 1965. The rules of intestacy are strictly applied and therefore, are not flexible and do not take account of what your wishes would have been.
After payment of your funeral and testamentary expenses, the rules of intestacy set out that your estate is distributed as follows:
If you die leaving a spouse/civil partner but no children then your spouse/civil partner will take your entire estate.
If you die leaving a spouse/civil partner AND children, then your spouse/civil partner will inherit 2/3 of your estate and the remaining 1/3 is divided equally among your children. If you have a predeceased child, then that share goes to his/her children.
If you die leaving children but no spouse/civil partner, then your estate is divided equally among your children. If any of your children have predeceased you then their children will take their parents share.
If you die leaving parents but no spouse/civil partner or children, then your estate is divided equally between your parents or if only one parent survives then your entire estate is given to one parent.
If you die leaving brothers and sisters only , then your estate is shared equally among them. If you have a predeceased sibling then the child or children of that sibling will take their parents share.
If you die leaving nieces and nephews only, then your estate is divided equally among those surviving, nieces and nephews
If you die leaving other relatives only then your estate is divided equally between the nearest equal relationship.
In the event that you die leaving no relatives whatsoever, then your estate in those circumstances, go to the state.
The rules of intestacy under the Succession Act dictate that the persons entitled to take share in the estate of the deceased at the date of death are the persons entitled to extract the Grant of Administration Intestate in that estate.
If you are the next of kin of someone who dies intestate and require further advice on the process involved in administering the estate, then please do not hesitate the office where one of our experienced solicitors will provide you with the necessary advice and assistance.