You may have seen in the press recently that Aretha Franklin died without leaving a Will. One can only speculate as to the problems this may cause for those she leaves behind as they seek to distribute her estate, estimated to be in the region of £60 million. Her lawyer has commented that “She never told me, “No, I don’t want to do one. She understood the need. It just didn’t seem to be something she got around to”.
It is often the case that we “never get around to” dealing with our own personal financial affairs, including making a Will – we are too busy living our lives – however a well drafted Will can make a difficult time easier for our loved ones as well as making the most of available inheritance tax allowances. This article aims to set out positive reasons for making a will and also to clarify some common misconceptions.
Choice of executors – your executors have the legal authority to deal with your assets held in your sole name after you die and in your Will you choose exactly who you wish to appoint. Your executors can also take action, as necessary, without waiting for the issue of the grant of probate, because their authority begins from the date of death. They could, for example, arrange for a property to be placed on the market. If you die without leaving a Will (intestate), the choice of administrators, who will have the legal authority to deal with your estate, is set out according to a statutory order set out by law. Such administrators will have no legal authority to take any action relating to your assets until the grant of letters of administration has been issued. The appointment of administrators can also cause problems if there are family members who do not get on, as, under the prescribed statutory order, certain family members may have an equal right to apply for the grant
Cohabitation – if you live with a partner and die intestate, under the intestacy laws, your partner will not be entitled to benefit from your estate. A professionally drafted Will is therefore essential in these circumstances to allow your partner to benefit from your estate
Married with children – if you are married with children, it is a commonly held belief that if you die intestate your whole estate will pass to your spouse. In fact, in these circumstances, if your estate is worth over £250,000, the intestacy laws provide for your estate to be shared between your spouse and your children. This may not be in accordance with your wishes
Children – if you have children under age 18 you may be concerned about who would look after them in the event that you and their other parent die at the same time. You can appoint guardians in your Will who would look after your children in such circumstances
Foreign property – do you own a property abroad? The law of England & Wales does not extend to foreign property. We would therefore discuss with you whether you have obtained local advice about succession issues and local inheritance laws and ensure that your English will does not conflict with any foreign will previously made
The above points are not exhaustive and there are many additional issues we would discuss when taking instructions to ensure that your will reflects your wishes and is as tax efficient as possible. A well drafted Will gives peace of mind and the value of that is hard to over estimate.