Understandably, some people feel that writing a will is not a priority simply because they won’t personally benefit. While this is true, by ensuring that you have a well-drafted will that reflects your wishes, you can ensure the assets, possessions and money you have worked hard to build up over your lifetime are handed down for the benefit of your family. In this article, we will explain what happens if you don’t leave a will (otherwise known as dying intestate) and how an up-to-date, accurate, and valid will can help your family.
Why you need to write a will
Exactly why is writing a will important? It is important to write a will because it is the only way to properly capture what you would like to happen to your estate when you die, including all of your assets (e.g. property and land), possessions (e.g. cars, furniture, art, jewellery), and money.
Writing a will is especially important for your surviving family members. Not only does it ensure that your estate is properly apportioned in accordance with your wishes, but it also removes any potential familial disputes in the future. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for family members to believe that they will receive an inheritance when this is not the case. Are you still thinking, why should I write a will? With a will:
- You can make clear how you wish your estate to be handled on your death
- You can nominate an executor who you trust to handle your matters when you die
- You can include your wishes for your funeral
- It can provide for those who would not ordinarily inherit if you do not leave a Will (see the rules of intestacy below) – this includes unmarried partners, step-children, other family members, friends, and charities
When should I write a will?
Contrary to common belief, the best time to write a will is as soon as possible (i.e. anytime from the age of 18). Why is it important to write a will as soon as you can? This reflects the fact that while we would never like to admit it, death is always a possibility. It is also important to draft your will while you have the mental capacity to do so. This is because, in order for a will to be valid, the testator must have the capacity to understand what they are agreeing to. As such, it is important not to leave your will until too late in life.
It is not possible to change a will after the death of a testator, however, your beneficiaries may be able to define how they want to share their portion of the inherited estate among each other through a Deed of Variation.
What happens if you don’t leave a will?
You might be wondering, what happens if you don’t leave a will at all? Dying without Will is referred to as “dying intestate”. The word “intestate” derives from Latin and literally means “no testified witness”; in other words, without a will, we die without a proper record of what we would like to happen.
If we die without a will, the “rules of intestacy” are used to determine how our estate will be shared out. These rules state that:
- A partner will only inherit if they are married or in a civil partnership at the time of death, i.e. divorced and common-law partners do not inherit under the rules of intestacy.
- Partners inherit all personal property and possessions, the first £270,000 of the estate, and half of the remaining estate if there are surviving children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren of the deceased. If there are no surviving children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, the partner receives the whole estate.
What this means is that where a person plans on leaving assets to a minor child, if there is a surviving partner, under the rules of intestacy, the child will only inherit a portion of the estate over the value of £270,000. Hence if the estate is worth £270,000 or less, they will not receive any inheritance.
Where partners are joint owners of a property at the time of death, the surviving partner automatically inherits the other partner’s share.
Do I need a Solicitor to draft my will?
While it is possible to draft your own will, this is fraught with risks. Any will that has not been properly prepared or where there are concerns about the testator’s capacity may be deemed invalid. By engaging a private client Solicitor, you can be assured that your wishes are documented correctly, it makes sense, it can be clearly understood, nothing has been omitted, the document is legally valid and has been witnessed and signed correctly, and there are no concerns regarding your mental capacity. Read our recent blog to learn more about the will drafting process.
Final words on why you need to write a will
By drafting a will as soon as possible, you can enjoy peace of mind that you have done all you can to protect the interests of your family in the event of your death. Knowing you have prepared your will also provides family members with reassurance that all is in order and there will be no disagreements or misunderstandings when you are no longer here.
Guillaumes LLP Solicitors is a full-service law firm based in Weybridge, Surrey. We have a highly experienced team of private client Solicitors who can assist you with will and tax planning, whether you are drafting your will or want to understand the legal grounds for disputing a will. Get in touch with us today and to make an appointment, please call us on 01932 840 111.