When you make a Will, it gives you the opportunity of putting in order your affairs for after your death. We are all reluctant to contemplate our own death, but it is the one thing in life that is guaranteed! If you don’t leave a Will then the laws of intestacy step in, which will dictate what happens to your property and money.
Making a Will allows you to control how your property and affairs will be dealt with. It ensures your wishes are taken into consideration and will make life much easier for those you leave behind.
Ten of the best reasons to make a Will:
- Providing financial security for your loved ones
- Making gifts of possessions and money
- Planning for inheritance tax
- Appointing guardians for your children
- Choosing your executor
- Avoiding inheritance disputes
- Giving a Life Interest
- Giving instructions for your funeral
- Planning for your pets
- Avoiding the unintended consequences of intestacy
1. Providing financial security for Your loved ones
A Will is the most effective way of ensuring that those closest to you are provided for after you have died. It gives important peace of mind not only to you but also your loved ones who will know that steps have been taken to provide them with the financial security they will need.
This is particularly important for unmarried couples as their relationship will not be recognised by the Intestacy Rules which apply when someone dies without leaving a valid Will. Co-habitees also do not have any rights in their deceased partner’s estate under the Intestacy Rules, so if their interests are not protected by a Will they could be left facing severe financial hardship.
It is also important if you have competing interests between a spouse or co-habitee on the one hand and children from a previous relationship on the other. By making a Will you can ensure that you provide for all the people you care about.
2. Making gifts of possessions and money
If you have family heirlooms, items of sentimental value, antique furniture, valuable jewellery or precious works of art you may want to make sure they go to a particular person.
Making instructions in your Will is the only way to do this. Usually the gift will be a “specific bequest” but gifts of this kind can be dealt with by way of a list of instructions written by you.
A Will is also a perfect way of making a gift of money. Making a Will is a good time to acknowledge your loved ones and friends or remember your favourite good cause with a legacy.
3. Planning for inheritance tax
When advising you about making a Will we collect enough information to find out whether inheritance tax is likely to be paid upon your death.
Careful Will drafting with the help of a specialist Estate Planning Practitioner will have a significant impact upon the level of inheritance tax which will be paid. It provides the opportunity to assess your position and consider what steps can be taken to minimise the inheritance tax liability. The cost of making a Will is excellent value when compared to the tax savings that could be made.
4. Appointing guardians for your children
This is the most important part of making your will if you have young children, as you will want to provide for their care after your death. It is, of course, advisable to consult the prospective guardians to make sure that they are willing to act before naming them.
5. Choosing your executor
Your Will enables you to choose who will be responsible for administering your affairs after your death and who will be responsible for making sure your wishes are carried out.
This means you get to choose people who you know will be suitable and who are likely to best represent your wishes.
An Executor is responsible for administering your estate, including the distribution of personal effects and the contents of the house. It is extremely importance that the right people are chosen. If you do not make a Will then the law will choose for you!
If you think it might be useful to appoint someone from outside the family (to avoid the possibility of arguments) then you can appoint a professional to act as executor.
6. Avoiding inheritance disputes
A complete consideration of how your dependants are to be provided for after your death is essential if you wish to avoid an unpleasant (and costly) inheritance dispute arising once you have gone.
Although in England and Wales we have testamentary freedom, the law does enable certain categories of applicants to make a claim against an estate if the deceased failed to make reasonable financial provision for them. This includes children, spouses and co-habitees as well as others. If reasonable financial provision has not been made a dependant can challenge the distribution of the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Claims under the 1975 Act can be made whether there is a Will or not. However, a Will does enable the testator to record their wishes and explain how the estate is to be divided. This can be taken into consideration if the Will is contested and it could even prevent a challenge altogether.
7. Giving a life interest
Life Interests in property and capital have been used in Wills and estate planning for many generations.
A Life Interest entitles the recipient to enjoy the use of the property or the income that the capital generates during their lifetime, and upon their death the asset will then pass to the beneficiary of your choosing.
Life Interests are increasingly popular among people who have remarried. If you are in a second marriage, chances are that you will have children from the first who may not be happy with the idea of everything being left to your new partner. A Life Interest (particularly in the matrimonial home) is often a convenient way to provide a roof over the head of your spouse or partner and still protect the children’s inheritance in the long term, keeping everybody happy!
8. Giving instructions for your funeral
This is your chance to have a say on your send off. If you have any special wishes about your burial or cremation, then this is the place to do it. You can even specify in your Will that you want to donate your body to medical research.
9. Planning for your pets
If you are concerned about what will happen to your pets after you have gone, then one solution is to nominate someone in your Will who you can trust to make sensible decisions for your animals. You may wish to consider a modest legacy to help cover the extra costs involved in caring for the animal and meeting food and vets’ bills.
10. Avoiding the unintended consequences of intestacy
If you die without leaving a Will, your estate will be distributed in accordance with a rigid set of rules known as the “Intestacy Rules”. The Intestacy Rules dictate how a deceased’s property and money will be divided. In some situations, this will broadly reflect the deceased’s general intentions. However, in certain circumstances the rules will produce an outcome that is at odds with what the deceased would have wanted and can lead to dependants suffering unintended hardship or family disputes arising.