The one thing all humans have in common is that one day they will pass away. This is for all of us as inevitable as day follows night. Most of us do not like to dwell upon our own mortality and do not therefore plan ahead to ensure that their loved ones are properly cared for after we have passed.
At the last count more than 60% of the UK population did not have a will. Of the 40% who did, subsequent changes since the will was written, and perhaps a badly written will mean that although some thought has been given, the real effect will not be given upon death.
Unsurprisingly, it tends to be the older generation who thinks more about wills and plans ahead. This is perhaps short sighted. A young adult with children or who has a company pension saving may leave behind substantial sums of money.
No one likes talking about death and no one wants to consider what will happen after their own death. However, it is extremely important in todays society that you expressly state your wishes, such as wanting your great nephew to have your pocket watch, or your friendly neighbour to be entrusted with your dog. In a will, you can stipulate if you wish to be buried or cremated. Where you want your remains to be placed. All very personal matters which unless expressly stated in a will, may not be adhered to. If you die without a will, these wishes may not be followed through at all.
For those who die intestate (without a will) the rules are very simple. Your estate goes to the next person in the blood line if there is no surviving spouse. Therefore, your pocket watch could effectively go to your long-lost brother and your trusted dog to the local dog centre as no one may want to care for him.
If you have no known surviving family members the law states that all property will be turned over to the Crown. This means that the entire property of a deceased person will belong to the Queen.
Surely its going to be expensive to instruct a Solicitor?
Why don’t you want to write a will? The cost of arranging a Will is not the money pit everyone believes that it is. Solicitors fees are generally capped for the writing of Wills and usually a fixed price will be quoted before you proceed to instruct. The process is not time consuming and can usually be completed within a few days.
You could of course try to save yourself some money and “go it alone” by preparing your own will. Despite there being many products on the market today, “Draft your own Will” or “Will drafting Kits”, the law in relation to “Wills” is very precise and provides a prescriptive list of the basic requirements to draft a legally enforceable will. Any variation of the rules will render the will as void meaning if you die the will has no effect. Do you really want to take the risk with all of your property? Always best therefore to seek professional help.
Got a will already prepared abroad?
When using a foreign will in the UK, it is not always guaranteed to be enforceable under English Law, therefore the deceased despite having a Will in a different country, may still be considered as having died intestate in this country.
Another little-known fact about wills. Get married after you have prepared your will and under UK law the will is automatically revoked meaning unless you have prepared a post marriage will, then you are intestate.
What happens to your children if you die?
One of the provisions commonly included within a will is who should look after your children. If you are a foreign national and have sole parental responsibility for your children but do not leave a will, then the stark reality is that under English Law the children are considered orphaned. The implications are grave. This means the UK Government via the social services will decide who looks after your children. The children will not be allowed to leave the country to be looked after by say grandparents, or your siblings back home and may be placed into foster care or adopted. Is this what you want for your children?
Dealing with your property after you die?
It is wrong to assume that your family can simply ask your bank to give them your money. Moreover, you may have substantial money in pension plans, life insurance, and your own home. Your loved ones will not automatically receive these assets.
You may need an official document called a “grant of probate” to access the deceased’s property. A grant of probate is an official document which the executors (people entrusted to handle your property) may need to administer your property (called your “estate”). It is issued by a section of the court known as the probate registry.
When applying for a grant of probate, a fee is payable to the Court dependant on the value of the estate that has been left by the deceased.
Inheritance taxes may also be payable on estates that are valued over £325,000.00.
What happens to debts on death?
It is often believed that a persons debt dies with them. This isn’t exactly true. If there is an estate that has been left over by the deceased, the outstanding debts of the deceased are deducted from the estate and the remaining money is then passed to the beneficiary. Otherwise, debts do not pass to the next of kin.
If you are concerned about what will happen to your property after you pass away; or want to secure your childrens well being, preparation is key and you should seek proper legal advice. Moreover, your will may be out of date or inadequate due to changes in your circumstances. You can’t predict the future, but you can leave a secure future for your loved ones.