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A Will defines what happens to your finances, possessions and dependents when you pass away.
It is important that you have an up-to-date Will that takes your individual circumstances into account. If you pass away without a Will, everything is given away according to fixed intestacy laws, which means your affairs are dealt with, according to a set of complicated legal rules and not what your wishes may have been. Your children could end up getting nothing and could end up in the care of social services if a parent has not made a Will-appointed guardian. At JMR Solicitors, we keep up to date with changes in the law and know how to draft a Will to suit your personal circumstances.
WHY DO I NEED A WILL?
A will makes it easier for your loved ones to understand your wishes when you die. Having a will eases the process and reduces the stress of arranging your affairs after your death. Without a will in place, everything that you own will be divided and shared in a way that may not comply with your wishes, but in the standard way defined by the law. Having a will may reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax that would have to be paid on the money and property that you leave. It may be even more important to write a will if you have family members, especially children, who are financially dependent on you. Equally important would be if you intend to leave something to a person who is not in your immediate family and who may not be recognised otherwise. Your will can also be a way to let your loved ones know how you wish to buried or cremated.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON’T LEAVE A WILL?
Dying without a valid will is called intestacy. Intestacy creates several problems, including:
- If you are married and do not have a valid will, your children may be left with little or nothing, as your husband or wife may inherit all or most of your money, possessions or property after you die.
- If you are separated, but not divorced, the above may still be true.
- If you are not married, your partner will most likely be left with nothing after you die no matter how long you have been together.
- If you die without a will and have no close, living relatives your entire estate will automatically be given to the government or to the Crown.
If you die before you write a will, your possessions, money and property will be divided and distributed in a way that may not comply with your wishes, but in the standard way defined by the law. If this happens then you may end up leaving something to someone that you do not want to, or conversely that you leave nothing to someone that you want to give something to. This is because when there is no will, the law will decide who gets given what with no consideration of your wishes because there is no legal record of your wishes. The relationship that you have with the people that receive your money or possessions will not be considered, as there will be no legal way to determine the truth. By creating a will, you will be clearing up any confusion that may arise by stating who you want to receive your possessions, money or property. This will prevent any unnecessary stress or upset at a time that will be already difficult for you loved ones.
Mirror wills are documents that are very similar and are used by married or unmarried couples. They are virtually identical and drafted so that one partner’s will gives their entire estate to the other after they die, and the other partner does the same in the event of their death. This means that if one partner dies, the entire estate goes to the surviving partner. This can be particularly beneficial if you are in a relationship but are not married, as unmarried partners may not be legally entitled to inherit your estate. Mirror wills can also act as protection for your loved ones should both partners die at the same time. This can include leaving instructions for children that you both agree on, for example appointing guardians for them or trustees to hold your estate until your children come of age. Mirror wills usually make the partners in a relationship each other’s executors, however additional executors can be appointed so that in the event that both partners die at the same time, their wishes can still be carried out. Mirror wills can also help to avoid inheritance tax, as everything passed from one partner to another is tax free.
An executor is the person you appoint to carry out your wishes after you die. This person can be anyone that you choose, and can be more than one person but it is important to carefully consider who you would like your executor to be. The job of an executor can be complicated and sometimes difficult. It can involve a lot of work, especially if your instructions involve the sale of property. Your executor is also responsible for making sure that the correct amount of tax gets paid. Anyone over the age of 18 can be appointed as an executor of a will, they can even be one of the people named in your will such as close family or friends. It is common that partners or children are appointed as executors; however this does not have to be the case. You can have up to four executors on your will at any time, however it is advised that you keep in mind the practicalities of four different people working together to execute your will. It is advised that you have more than one executor in the event that one of them dies. It is common practice for people to have one relative and one professional, such as a solicitor, act as their executors. Having a solicitor act as an executor can also be beneficial due to their specialist knowledge. It makes a lot of sense to have a solicitor handle the tax and legal issues after your death and have your other executor handle the more sensitive family matters that may arise. It is also important to note that you must ask permission before including someone as your executor, as if they say no or change their mind, you will have to change your will.