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.
The Consequences of Not Writing a Will
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 today’s society that you expressly state your wishes, such as wanting your great nephew to have your pocket watch, or your friendly neighbor 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.
The Rules of Intestacy
For those who die intestate (without a will), the rules are very simple. Your estate goes to the next person in the bloodline 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 center 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.
The Cost of Writing a Will
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.
In conclusion, writing a will is an essential step in securing the future and ensuring that your wishes are respected. It’s a straightforward process that, contrary to common belief, is not prohibitively expensive. Without a will, the rules of intestacy (https://www.gov.uk/inherits-someone-dies-without-will) can lead to unexpected outcomes and complications, potentially leaving your loved ones in a difficult situation.
Whether you’re a young adult with dependents or an older individual with substantial assets, having a will in place is a responsible and considerate act. It allows you to make critical decisions about your property, the guardianship of your children, and your final wishes.
Remember that getting married can revoke your existing will, so updating it after significant life events is crucial. If you have a will prepared abroad, it may not necessarily be enforceable under UK law, highlighting the importance of seeking legal advice.
By addressing these key considerations and ensuring your affairs are in order, you can provide peace of mind to yourself and your family. So, don’t delay – take the necessary steps to draft a will and secure a better future for your loved ones.