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The importance of making a Will

Date: February 05, 2018 by IDU

Everyone over the age of 18 should make a will. That’s especially true if you have children or you’re living together (co-habiting) and not married. There are a number of myths and misconceptions around inheritance issues which mean some people think making a Will isn’t necessary.

 

It’s too complicated and expensive
It is possible to get cheap Will packs from high street stores or use the services of a Will writer, but to avoid problems in future it’s best to get an experienced solicitor to construct a Will. True, it will cost more than those options, but most solicitors provide step-by-step guidance through the process and many don’t even require a face- to-face meeting.

 

Everything can be done remotely by completing a questionnaire online, in the post or over the telephone if you don’t like form filling. Using a solicitor also allows you to do other things to protect you and your family such as putting in place a Lasting Power of Attorney. All these issues can be dealt with at the same time as making your Will.

 

I’m not worth enough to justify making a Will
If you own a house or flat (no matter how large or small or where in the country) increasing property prices, the value of insurance policies and other investments mean it’s likely we are all worth more dead than we imagined ourselves to be. Making a Will is a sensible move, no matter how little you think your estate is worth. However, a Will is not just about money. It ensures your wishes are carried out. You can appoint people you trust to be guardians for young children and executors to handle your affairs. A clearly written Will is also a way of ensuring there are no family arguments about inheritance, organ donation, charity gifts and the like when you are gone.

 

The family already know what I want. They get a share anyway, don’t they?
If you die without leaving a valid legal Will, you are said to have died ‘Intestate’ and the rules of intestacy apply. That means the law dictates who will inherit your estate and in what proportions. The law also decides who will have responsibility for administering your estate. That means those you wanted to provide for, even if you’ve discussed things, may be cut out and disappointed.

Many people also mistakenly believe that, even if they are not married or in a registered civil partnership, their partner and children will automatically be taken care of. Legally, there is no such thing as a ‘common law marriage’, so unmarried partners (whether same sex or opposite sex) have no rights to inherit on the death of a partner, irrespective of how long they have been sharing their lives together. Under the rules of intestacy your ‘common law’ partner would get nothing. If there are no surviving children or relatives, without a Will everything goes to the government.

 

A Will’s not worth the paper it’s written on
Press reports about challenges to Wills (such as the case of Ilot vs Mitson where the mother cut out her estranged daughter) have left the impression that Wills can be easily challenged and overturned by disgruntled offspring.

 

You can of course change your Will at any time, provided that you have the required mental capacity to make those changes. You can cancel your Will either by destroying it or by making another one (this has the effect of automatically revoking a previous Will). If you marry or enter into a civil partnership, this will also cancel your previous Will.

 

You are free to leave your estate to whoever you wish. However, if you exclude a close family member who expected to benefit from your estate, you should seek legal advice as to how best to record your reasons for that decision. This reduces the likelihood of a claim being made against your estate after you die.

 

A Will can indeed be challenged on several grounds such as the fact the person making it (the Testator) lacked mental capacity to do so, or that the Testator was being unduly influenced to make the Will.

 

Any interested party can make such a challenge but it is up to them to prove their allegations (which is not a simple or easy task) otherwise, a relative or other person who expected to be provided for can challenge a Will using the Inheritance Act, but this is subject to strict rules and it is not the case that any disgruntled family member can challenge your Will.