When seeing clients to make wills, they often say “we’ve been meaning to do this for years”, but why? Often ‘life’ just gets in the way; work, caring responsibilities and more exciting ways to spend precious days off than making a will.
However, it’s ‘life’ we need to consider.
Many perceive a will as something they will consider as they become older or unwell and need to think about what would happen if they were gone. Instead, we should start thinking of these as something that should be in place through life. Draft and re-draft as life changes, not ends.
Big life events happen at all ages; buying a house, setting up a business, marriage/civil partnership, children, death of parents or divorce, all of these change mindsets, priorities and assets.
As such, people need to plan. If you got hit by a bus and died in your mid-thirties your priorities could be very different to those of your nineties, but would those priorities be reflected after you had died?
Without a will you have no control over who will inherit your estate, and the intestacy rules will prevail.
By relying on Intestacy Rules, there is the possibility that spouses/civil partners will not inherit the whole of the deceased’s estate and step-children could be excluded too.
You can check what would happen in your circumstances using this online tool
There’s lots of mis-information and mis-conceptions out there about wills and inheritance, which hinder people making a will, a few of which I hope to dispel.
There is no such thing as a common-law spouse. The fact you might have lived together with a partner for years has no bearing in law and does not mean you will necessarily inherit your partner’s estate, without a will. Instead, assets may instead fall to their children, parents or siblings. This can leave the surviving partner without access to money, unable to pay the mortgage or support the household. A will here is crucial to make sure your wishes are followed.
Children are often the most emotive consideration in making a will. Every family is different and have different circumstances; providing a wish that particular guardians are appointed to care for them, helping children inherit a nest-egg to set them up in life, a child may have additional needs and careful consideration needs to be taken as to their future or maybe there has been a family disagreement or estrangement which influences how a parent wants their estate to be distributed.
The intestacy provisions may not be suited to every family and making a will is the only way to ensure you have control in death.
Subsequent marriages/civil partnerships
Many couples want to make sure their surviving spouse/civil partner is provided for on their death, which is understandable but complications arise where there are children from previous relationships and they can inadvertently miss out on inheritance by relying on the intestacy rules or simple wills. This is best illustrated by an example:
Peter and Wendy marry. Peter has three children from a previous relationship and Wendy has one. Peter dies without a will and assets in his sole name worth £250,000. Wendy therefore inherits his whole estate.
Wendy then dies a few years later, again without making a will. Her whole estate goes to her surviving child. This leaves Peter’s three children without inheriting a penny from his estate as it has effectively gone sideways to Wendy and then her family. Peter may not have intended this.
If Peter had made a will he could have provided for Wendy, his own children and others. He could have also protected assets in the event of Wendy re-marrying to ensure his children inherited something from him.
Away from family life, many clients have either businesses of their own or co-own a business with another and they often want to treat this differently to the rest of their assets.
Some businesses naturally cease upon death, for example if the deceased had a particular skill that is not transferrable, but others need the certainty of planning ahead.
Without a will, there is not this certainty as the estate could go to a spouse or wider family who are not best placed to carry on the business, and the business partner or natural heir could be overlooked.
Some clients are fully estranged from their families or have limited contact with them, as such the intestacy rules are not suitable as there may be people or charities in their life who they are closer to and wish to remember.
Please contact our specialist private client team on 0161 871 3680 if you wish to make a will or for more information.