What is a Will
A Will is a legal document which, if executed correctly, sets out how your estate should be handled once you have passed away. For example, it will provide for who inherits your money and belongings, who will be responsible for your children or pets and what you would like to happen at your funeral.
If you pass away without a Will, you will die intestate. This means that your estate will be distributed in accordance with legislation set out in the Administration of Estates Act 1925 (‘AEA’), as amended by the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act 2014 (‘ITPA’) and this may not always be how you had originally intended your personal belongings to be divided or dealt with.
Below are some common issues which can be mitigated by having a valid Will in place.
It is always considered important to have a Will, especially if you have a child under the age of eighteen. If you were to pass away and nobody else had parental rights to look after your child, then it is for the court to decide who should raise your child. This tends to be a close relative, but this might not necessarily be the person you would like to have parental responsibility over your child.
Whilst the court is deciding who should care for your child, they will be put in temporary care.
Creating a Will including a guardian clause means that you will be able to select the person(s) to raise your child if you were to pass away. It also enables you to make financial provisions for your child. For example, you may have put money aside or want your estate to be used to support your child through education, their career or travelling. You will be able to include a clause in your Will that would instruct your child’s guardian to use that money for that specific reason.
Many young people are unaware that if they pass away, their estate will pass to both their parents in equal shares. Whilst this might be perfectly acceptable for some people, it is not uncommon that at least one of the parents of young people are estranged from them. If you pass away and you have a parent that you are no longer in contact with, half of your estate will pass to them, if they can be located.
Young people may instead, want someone else to inherit their assets, and as such, a Will is necessary to achieve this aim.
Living with a partner but not Married or in a Civil Partnership
If you live with a partner who you are not Married to or in a Civil Partnership with, the partner will not automatically inherit your assets upon your death, save for when you hold Property together as Joint Tenants.
Instead, your Estate will devolve to your children, if you have any, or your parents in equal shares if you do not have children.
Inherited or Earned Large Sums of Money
If during your lifetime you have either earnt or inherited large sums of money, you again, may want discretion as to how this is distributed upon your death.
If your inheritance or earnings has taken you above the Inheritance Tax threshold, you may wish to obtain advice as to how to mitigate Inheritance Tax liability upon your death. Measures for this can be included within your Will.
By including a Funeral Wish clause in your Will, your family can ensure that you have the funeral that you would have wanted. For example, it is becoming increasingly popular to opt for Eco Burials and other arrangements that preserve the environment. People also have favourite writers or musicians that resonate with them and whose music, lyrics or poem they would like to be played or recited at their funeral.
If you are married and had a Will before your marriage, it is important to know that your marriage revokes any previous Will. Therefore, you should consider creating a new Will so that your estate is distributed in accordance with your wishes upon your death.
If any of these common occurrences relate to you and you would like to complete a Will, please get in contact with one of our dedicated Private Client teams spanning across seven different offices in Norfolk.
Written by Elizabeth Atkinson, Private Client Executive, in our Wymondham office.