Wills Legal Guide - Part 1

By Lenore Rice

Why make a Will?

Writing a Will can give peace of mind to you and those closest to you if the unthinkable should happen.

While no one wants to prepare for death or future incapacity, we all owe it to our family and friends to plan properly and prevent any dispute or hassle in the future.

A Will simply ensures that what you leave on your death is distributed in accordance with your wishes, with minimum delay and maybe most importantly, with minimum distress for your loved ones. It also means that if assets are of a certain value, the issue of Inheritance Tax can be considered and any tax saving possibilities maximised.

When a person dies without leaving a valid Will, their estate must be shared out in accordance with certain rules. These are called the rules of intestacy, and refer to the legislation in place to govern the division of assets among the appropriate parties should a person die without leaving a Will i.e. dying intestate.

Points to know about intestacy

  • Married partners or civil partners can only inherit under the rules of intestacy if they are actually married or in a civil partnership at the time of death. If you are divorced or if your civil partnership has been legally ended, you cannot inherit under the rules of intestacy.
  • Partners who are informally separated can still inherit under the rules of intestacy.
  • Co-habiting partners, often incorrectly referred to as ‘common-law’ partners, who aren’t married or in a civil partnership cannot inherit under the rules of intestacy.
  • Children of the intestate person will inherit if there is no surviving spouse or civil partner. If there is a surviving partner, then the child will only inherit if the estate is worth more than a certain amount.
  • If you do not write a Will explicitly stating your wishes, then it will be up to the government to decide how your assets are shared after your death.
  • Dying without leaving a will may result in a hefty inheritance tax bill for whoever inherits your estate, depending on specific circumstance.

Additionally, under the rules of intestacy, the following people have no legal right to inherit where someone dies without leaving a Will:

  • Relations by marriage
  • Close friends
  • Carers

In other words, writing a formal Will is the only way to ensure that your money, property, investments, and possessions are passed on to the people and causes that you care about.

In the next part of our Wills Legal Guide, we will explore the preliminary steps involving in making a Will, including making a list of potential beneficiaries and estimating the worth of your assets.