We spoke to local solicitor Sally Power from Hunt & Coombs Solicitors about wills;
As a private client solicitor I am bound to say that I think everyone should have a Will, but it really is the case. Having a properly drafted, valid Will is the only way to make sure that what you want to happen when you die actually happens and it makes things easier for those left behind and grieving. In this article I take you through the key reasons I recommend that you ensure that you have a professionally drafted Will.
Ensuring who you want to inherit does
If you die without having a Will in place this is called intestacy and in this situation rules come into play which determine who will inherit your estate. The intestacy rules basically go through various relationships in order (marriage, parents, children, brothers and sisters etc) and may mean that someone you do not have a close relationship with inherits just because of how they are related to you, or someone you are close to, eg a step child, does not inherit.
If you cohabit (live) with someone and do not have a Will then your partner would not inherit under the intestacy rules. This means that they could be left with nothing, depending on what assets you share and how they are owned, and relatives you may not want to inherit may do so instead. Your partner may be entitled, depending on how long you have lived together, to bring a claim against your estate, but this can feel like quite an aggressive step to take at a time when emotions are running high and people are grieving. By leaving a clear and well drafted Will you can ensure that your partner, children and even pets, are provided for. This makes things more straightforward for those left behind to deal with and, importantly, what you want to happen should happen.
If you have children under the age of 18 Wills are an important way of you making it clear who you would want to act as their guardian should you be the sole parent with parental responsibility at the date of your death.
Marriages and Civil Partnerships
Getting married/entering a civil partnership, or not, can have important consequences in relation to Wills. If you already have a Will and you get married or enter a civil partnership, your Will is automatically revoked on your marriage/civil partnership and you should make an appointment with your solicitor to update it as soon as possible. Steps can be taken before you get married/enter a civil partnership to make sure that any Will you make does not get revoked on marriage and again, you should speak to a solicitor.
If you do not have Wills and were intending to get them prepared once married/you have entered a civil partnership, you should definitely consider preparing them now, particularly if you and your partner are already living together and/or you have children.
Divorces and Dissolutions of Civil Partnerships
The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down the process for divorces and the dissolution of civil partnerships. If you have a Will in place that makes provision for your spouse it will remain valid right up until the decree absolute is granted in the case of spouses (the second and final decree in divorce proceeding), or final dissolution order in the case of civil partners. Once the decree absolute or final dissolution order is granted then your spouse/civil partner will be treated as if they had died before you. If they were appointed as your executor they would no longer be, and if you made provision for them, this would no longer be effective. This may be what you intended, but in many instances may not.
If you want a spouse or civil partner to continue to be provided for beyond the grant of a decree absolute/final dissolution order then you would need to make sure your Will reflected this to avoid their being treated as having died before you, this could be done by way of a Codicil (amendment to your Will) or by making a new Will completely.
Similarly, if you do not have a Will and die after the decree nisi is granted (the first decree in divorce proceedings) or conditional order of dissolution for civil partners, but before the decree absolute/final dissolution order is granted, then you will be treated as having died whilst married/in a civil partnership and your spouse/partner will be a major, and possibly only, beneficiary (depending on the size of your estate and whether you have children). This is often not what parties divorcing/ending their partnership would want to happen. Accordingly we would advise that you make a new Will to ensure that what you want to happen does happen and not leave it to chance.
Tax planning/making use of inheritance tax free allowances
An experienced solicitor will take care when speaking to you to ensure that your wishes are reflected in your Will and that your Will will work as you intend it to. In addition to this they will also be able to identify if there are any issues that could arise, for example a liability to Inheritance Tax. They will be able to advise you on how to reduce the impact of Inheritance Tax and ensure the Will is drafted in a tax efficient manner, making sure exemptions, which many people are not aware of, are able to be claimed on death and also to ensure Inheritance Tax reliefs are not lost because of poor or wrong drafting.
For More Information
If you would like to discuss anything raised by this article please get in touch with Sally either by email: email@example.com, or be telephone on 01832 273506.