Making a Will may not seem a particularly cheery subject.
It may well indeed be one of those things you keep putting off doing.
If so, you’re not alone.
Figures by the independent advice portal, Unbiased, revealed that in 2016 over half (59 per cent) of UK adults had not written a Will. And if you think it’s because people leave it until they’re older, over 36% of the over 55s, still had no Will in place, which was an increase from 30% in 2015.
For some reason, not considering themselves wealthy enough to need a Will is often quoted but the report showed that the average homeowner has over £214,000 worth of property alone, to bequeath to loved ones, so this is clearly not the case.
Even the rich and famous don’t always make provision either – the musician, Prince, died without a Will, which meant a bank had to be brought in to manage his assets, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
No Will in place
If you die without a Will, you die as what is known as ‘intestate’. The Court would have to appoint Administrators to take responsibility for getting your assets together and ensuring that all your debts were paid before your estate was distributed. This can take months even years, during which time your assets would be frozen so your beneficiaries would have no access to any money until all the formalities had been dealt with.
Your estate would be shared out within the family according to strict rules. Your spouse would not automatically inherit your entire estate. And if you weren’t married, then they would have no automatic right to inherit anything. Any children would have inheritance rights but more distant relatives and cohabitants will not.
The benefits of having a Will
In contrast, having a Will allows you to stipulate how your assets will be shared out and determines exactly who you want them to go to, including any charities or other causes. It also allows you to nominate guardians for your children after your death. Furthermore a well structured Will can reduce the impact of inheritance tax on future generations for instance by making use of gifts to Trust, partners, or skipping a generation by making gifts directly to grandchildren.
Even if you have discussed with your family how you would like your estate to be administered after your death, having your wishes clearly written down, ensures there is no ambiguity and provides reassurance at an already stressful and upsetting time.
To avoid any disputes, you do still need to make sure your Will is legal and up to date, so you should ideally have it reviewed every ten years or so.
The legal profession has recognised that the current system seems outdated and that writing a Will is seen to be far too formal, resulting in the low take-up. There are moves afoot to make the whole process more accessible and the Law Commission are considering proposals that individuals may be able to use voicemail messages, emails and texts to make their Wills.
However, In the meantime if you want to guarantee your estate is distributed as you intended, the safest way is to make sure you have a Will in place. If you are one of the many who have not yet taken this step then please contact your Creative consultant, or send us an email, to discuss how we can assist you with this.