If you have a really simple life, don’t own a property, not much money and want to leave all your stuff to your parents then you probably don’t need a will. That covers my teenage daughter but the rest of us? We need a will.
The lives we lead today are not reflected in the 1925 Act which decides who inherits if you don’t have a will. Have a look at https://www.gov.uk/inherits-someone-dies-without-will to get an idea who’ll get your property and money.
Some really important things you should consider are:
The Government let’s your estate keep the first £325000 (that’s nice of them isn’t it!) after that, your estate is liable to start paying tax at 40% … HOWEVER, if you’ve given gifts in the last seven years that threshold will probably be reduced!
A Will allows you to sort your estate out in a tax efficient way to minimise your liabilities so more of your hard earned money goes to the people you love rather than HMRC!
Who looks after the kids?
If you have kids under the age of 18 and you die without a will who do you think will look after them? The absent parent who hasn’t seen the kids for years? Social Services? The Courts will generally decide – your children could end up with someone you really, really wouldn’t want in charge of their care. If you have a will, you can specify a “someone” who you trust to take on that role, someone you know who cares about them and will help them when they need it most.
Unfortunately the 1925 Act doesn’t recognise partners outside of marriage or civil partnerships. So unless you have a Will, they are not going to receive anything out of your estate. So at exactly the time they need some financial security, they’re going to get financial uncertainty, disruption and hardship. Worse, they might lose the family home as well. Is that what you want?
If you care for a disabled relative and want to make sure that they are looked after when you aren’t around then you definitely need a Will. I’m guessing that they will be on benefits probably means tested ones too. If you left them adequately provided for the DWP would stop their benefits, spend the cash you left them on their care and then when it was all gone, put them back on benefits. Probably not the same benefits either – so they could be worse off. Wastes your money and is time consuming.
Your relative might not have mental capacity so who is going to sign to accept the cash anyway? More delays and stress.
There are several options that will help you take care of this person, but without complicating their lives with problems. But guess what? You’ll need a Will!
Sometimes, we want to help our relatives, but we are concerned about how they will handle the money we want to leave them. It could be that they are simply rubbish with money, are likely to lose most of it in a divorce, or they’re struggling with addictions; gambling, alcohol or anything else detrimental to health and well-being and you’re worried that access to more cash could be the death of them. With a well written Will there is a way that you can look after your loved one but protect them from themselves.
If you do have a Will and exclude such a dependent because of those fears then it’s likely that they or someone else will contest it. This wastes time and estate money on costly court fees and expensive solicitors and you should try to think ahead and avoid this if you don’t want your hard earned money be consumed in such a manner.
Without a Will it isn’t your decision who gets what or how – hello 1925 Act.
If you have your mum’s wedding ring that you promised your daughter or a favourite charity then you need a Will to make sure they get what you want them to have. That 1925 Act doesn’t bother with special gifts or give a thought about your favourite charity. In a Will you can make sure that people get that special thing that YOU want them to have. This also prevents squabbles amongst relatives when they’re sorting your estate.
Hassle and cost
When you die you have to go through Probate. It’s not cheap with a Will but without one it’s likely to be horrendously expensive. Your loved ones will probably need a solicitor, they will have to fill in lots of forms, and wade through a lot of red tape and bureaucratic frustrations when they are grieving. It delays the people you love getting the things that they need – if they ever get them because sometimes the process can take months, or years. That’s a long time for your loved ones to have that hanging over them.
Wills are one of those things we put off – there are probably a zillion things you’d rather spend the cash on. You can get an online Will relatively cheaply, but unless you’re an expert in all the things above or have a life like my daughter then you risk your Will being challenged, it’s validity being contested and nothing going the way you hoped it would. As with all things in life, you get what you pay for.
A true story
I’d like to end by sharing an experience of a friend of mine.
My friend’s relative was in his sixties and had been living with his partner for 30+ years in a house in his name only. They were unmarried, and he didn’t have a Will when he passed.
Eighteen months after his death and many thousands of pounds to solicitors, family researchers and other professionals, this is the result:
- His partner was asked to leave the property as she had no right to occupy and is now being housed by the local authority. She hasn’t received a penny.
- The estate was split into 36ths with some obscure relatives getting a share. Some had not seen the deceased for years, if ever.
- One of the beneficiaries is a young male with a learning disability. Someone now has the responsibility of looking after that money as a trustee until he is 18. Whether he will have capacity to accept the money who knows yet – that might be a whole new saga of Deputyships and court applications.
The human element is that there has been a lot of hassle for the few family members who agreed to sort the mess out. There were many disagreements and those who agreed to sort the mess out worked hard to be fair, but then there were relatives who were not interested in helping sort the estate, but still had an opinion and an eye on a potential windfall. There were many disagreements. The partner, left with nothing, no longer speaks to many of their friends and family.
Who knows why the guy didn’t make a Will but do you think he wanted these outcomes when he could have made everything so much better with a Will? If he had given up a weekend away, his partner would still have a home and an income.
Please get a Will and look after the people you love.