Control and protect your family assets with a Will trust

What is a Will trust ?

A Will trust – also known as a testamentary trust – is created within your will to allow you to protect the property you hope to pass on to your family. Trusts are legal entities that allow someone to benefit from an asset without being the legal owner. You create the trust and appoint a person to manage it – the ‘trustee’. The trustee manages the trust on behalf of the ‘beneficiaries’ – those who receive the income of the trust. Establishing trusts can give you an element of control over assets you wouldn’t have if you gave them away outright.

There can also be tax advantages, but that should never be the main reason for setting one up. In some cases, you could end up paying more tax by putting assets into the trust. Trusts can be complicated structures with tax implications, and you should always seek legal advice before setting one up. There are two main types of trust that you might choose to set up: a Will trust, created upon your death, or a Lifetime trust, which you establish during your lifetime. We can explain the pros and cons of both to ensure you have the protection, control and peace of mind you require.

Will Trust and Health and Welfare LPA + Property and Financial LPA Package: £1,250 per couple
( Online Instruction Only, LPA = Lasting Powers of Attorney )

 

Contact us here to book your online consultation today.

Claims under the inheritance act on the rise

Claims are also granted decades after the deadline

It is a common mistake that people believe that a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 can only be brought within 6 months of the Grant being issued. This is not the case! The actual position is that a claim can be brought at any time (even before Grant) but if the claim is to be issued after 6 months, the courts permission is required first.

Historically, the courts have been slow to grant permission after 6 months (the guidance comes from a case called Re Salmon (1981)) which has led people to mistakenly believe that the 6 months deadline is an absolute cut-off date. This is NOT the case and there have been a number of recent cases which have reached High Court where the permission to issue a claim has been granted many years after the 6 month permission deadline …

Most recently was the case of Bhusate v Patel & Others (2019), where the High Court granted the permission to bring a claim under the Inheritance Act – despite it being issued OVER 25 YEARS after the deadline for doing so.

In brief:

The deceased died in 1990, aged 72 and a claim was issued 25 years and 9 months after the time limit.
The claimant was the third wife of the deceased and had one child together.
The deceased previously had 5 other children from his first wife who sadly passed away in 1971.
The estate (which was comprised of the deceased house) was valued at £135,000 at the time of death, however the current value is in the region of £850,000

This type of situation isn’t uncommon – modern family structures are making inheritance claims increasingly likely. There is no surprise that more claims are made late and there has been a trend of cases which have been brought to High Court long after the time period has elapsed:

Sargeant v Sargeant (2018) – claim granted after 10 years
Lloyd v Ayres (2018) – claim granted after 9 years
Moffat v Moffat (2016) – claim granted after 18 years
Berger v Berger (2013) – claim granted after 6 years

Do these judgements suggest a move towards a more relaxed attitude by the courts to give permission to issue claims long after the 6 month deadline has passed? It appears so. It is important to note that the Courts have complete discretion when deciding whether to give permission to issue an Inheritance Act claim. Many of these claims start with enquiries about greater provision but often then turn to the validity or otherwise of the Will too, which then calls into question the way the Will was prepared and executed.

There is no time limitation for those challenges. Either way, the importance of a robust Will file has never been greater, as a claim can arise at any time, long after the 6 month time frame. Claims are costly and risky for an individuals intended beneficiaries , so other solutions are needed to protect the individuals wishes.

A Will may also not be enough to support and ensure that the individuals intentions are met in full. The reality is that an individuals Will may well be declared invalid if poor notes are kept and the Will is later challenged. The solution is a Will Clarity Statement , it will record all notes and explore and detail the who, the why, the when and the how, within the intended wishes of the individual.

 

U-PLAN can write your Will and offer you and your chosen beneficiaries, the protection of a Will Clarity Statement – contact us here to arrange your free consultation. 

Why you need a Will Clarity Statement

Why writing a Will may not be enough

  • One In Four people would mount a legal challenge against a loved ones Will
  • Complex relationships often mean that relatives and dependants are left feeling disappointed with what they inherit
  • Estate values can be depleted by court fees or even wiped out

With todays ‘modern’  lifestyle, the increase in divorce rates, remarriage and cohabitation, together with families living further apart leading to more complicated family structures, means the need to make a Will has never been greater.

However, more complex relationships can often mean that relatives and dependants are left feeling disappointed with what they inherit. A typical example of this is intergenerational lending, perhaps a parent loaning money to one of the children to enable them to get on the property ladder now becoming common place. This can lead to disagreement on the death of that parent as to how the other children or step children are treated.

 

Its my money and so its my decision who gets what

When we decide WHO we want to benefit after we pass away, we naturally think of those closest to us and who we have an active relationship with. In English Law, the basic principle is that of  ‘testamentary freedom’ which means that people are able to leave their property to whomever they choose in their Will regardless of family connections.

 

Surely, all I need to do is write a Will that reflects my choices?

Ideally yes, however with the increased complexity of modern family structures, more people having a sizable estate to pass on can mean that it feels there is something worth fighting for, particularly at a time when emotions are running high. As a direct result of this, the legal industry is seeing a growing number of cases where people are seeking legal remedy from being left out a Will entirely, or receiving less than they expected as a deliberate act on the part of the deceased.

 

Claims

A growing ‘compensation culture’ and people becoming more aware of their legal rights from stories and articles in the media and the ability to bring a claim if there is something they see as unfair or amiss, means more of an incentive and appetite to challenge a Will. The number of inheritance disputes reaching the high court each year has soared to a record high, a trend that lawyers put down to intricacies of modern family life and rising property prices.

A recent survey by Direct Line ( cited in our last post) revealed that one in four people would mount a legal challenge against a loved ones Will if they were unhappy with it.

With more and more people relying on an inheritance to get on the property ladder or to provide for them in retirement, when someone is left out of their Will, or stands to inherit less than they were expecting, this can trigger a dispute and lead to a potential claim,

If the claim was successful, this could mean that those you specifically wanted to inherit from you could end up losing out, or even if the Will was upheld, the cost of the fees involved in the claim could seriously reduce the size of your estate, or wipe it out entirely.

 

Its all about the “Why?”

Writing a Will can be a tricky but trying to understand a loved ones Will after their death can be agonising for some.  Not being able to understand the reason “why” a decision was made, can lead to the Will being contested. People can be surprised and hurt by the contents of a Will.

The problem is that a Will only details “what” you want to happen to your property after you have gone, but does not go into the reasons “why” you want your assets to be disposed of in this way. Obviously, you will not be there in person to explain or defend your decisions which could mean your voice would go unheard against that of the person contesting the Will.

At the time of drafting your Will, you may be confident that a claim would not be made however, it is worth remembering that it is the situation at the time of death that is important and not the situation today.

 

So, what can be done?

Your wishes and reasoning for the terms of your Will are relevant and need to be given suitable weight. Its clear that its of equal importance to both accurately record all events during the instruction taking process and retain these along with the Will, in order to be able to fully respond to nay potential future claims and so protect your wishes.

Many companies rely on simply making notes when taking a clients Will instructions and store these with the Will file in case of need at a later date. Unfortunately though, these notes may be insufficient, go missing, or their meaning lost in translation with the passing of time. In direct contrast to this, we offer both Will Clarity & Execution statements which are totally unique to the legal industry.

 

What is a Will Clarity Statement?

A Will Clarity statement is something that every Will Writing company or Solicitors firm should be offering their clients when drafting their Will.  Not only does it explain the WHY behind your wishes but it also includes the WHERE, the WHEN, the HOW and the WHO.

In simple terms,  it is a statement written in plain English, setting out your wishes for the distribution of your estate on death but more importantly, the reasoning behind your decisions and the surrounding circumstances. This is automatically compiled with the information provided throughout the entire instruction taking process, ensuring that nothing is missed. The Will Clarity statement is then read, agreed, signed and stored with the Will for safekeeping.

The purpose of the Will Clarity statement is to provide guidance to your executors, trustees and family members after your death, making clear exactly what your wishes are and setting out your thought process at the time of making the Will, speaking out where a Will cannot. A Will Clarity statement can be crucial in helping to manage family and loved ones expectations, whilst deterring any potential claims against the Will.

 

The Will Execution Statement

For a Will to be valid there are three main formalities which need to be observed.

  1. The Will must be in writing.
  2. The Will must be signed by the Testator.
  3. There must be 2 independent witnesses who attest to the testators signature.

Not only does the Execution statement record the above it also reaffirms that the instruction taker is satisfied that your capacity was not in doubt at the time of execution.

 

Don’t leave it to chance

Unfortunately Wills can and will continue to be challenged by those who have been cut out or not left as much as they felt they should have been. When deciding who you want to benefit under your Will, it is necessary to carefully consider the possibility of such a challenge after your death.

 

U-PLAN can write your Will and offer you and your chosen beneficiaries, the protection of a Will Clarity Statement – contact us here to arrange your free consultation. 

 

 

 

 

1 in 4 adults prepared to challenge Wills.

A quarter of adults are now prepared to dispute a Will

1 in 4 people are willing to challenge against a loved one’s Will if they disagree with the distribution
of the estate, a survey reveals.
(Survey commissioned by Direct Line)

The problem –

The readiness of family members to oppose a relative’s last wishes is reflected in official court
statistics, which show Will disputes are continuously on the rise.
Partner at law firm Nockolds, Daniel Winter, has previously stated that the increased number of
inheritance cases reaching the High Court is only the tip of the iceberg of family disputes which are
either settled or end up in County Court.

He says: “Modern family structures are making inheritance claims increasingly likely. People are more likely
to marry multiple times, or cohabit outside of marriage, and if there are children or stepchildren
involved, the likelihood of someone feeling hard done by is even greater than before.
More people are relying on an inheritance to get on the property ladder or to provide for them in
retirement, or to repay their mortgage. If someone is left out of a Will, or stands to inherit less than
they were expecting, this can trigger a dispute”

The most common legal reasons for contesting a Will are:

  •  Undue influence – where the client was forced to sign a will or unreasonable pressure was
    put on them
  • Lack of knowledge and approval – where the client was not aware of the contents or there
    were suspicious circumstances
  • Testamentary capacity – where the client wasn’t mentally competent or had the legal ability
    to make or alter a Will
  • The reality is that a client’s Will may well be declared invalid if poor notes are kept and the Will is
    later challenged.
  • Unfortunately, a client’s Will only really describes WHAT they wish to do with their estate, and
    doesn’t include any of their deciding factors, circumstances surrounding the Will drafting and
    execution or their mental capacity, which will be questioned if a claim arises.

 

Contact us here to find out how we can help comprehensively minimise inheritance disputes, when writing your Will. 

More than 5 million adults ‘ Perplexed by Wills’

New research by Royal London has revealed that 5.4 million adults without a will in the UK would not know where to begin if they were to write one. 

 

The data also showed that 59% of parents either do not have a will, or currently have one that is out of date.

Royal London says it is “especially important” for parents to have an up to date will so that if the worst were to happen, their children would be brought up by who they choose.

The research also found that since writing a will just under a third (31%) experienced a “significant life event” such as marriage or having a baby, yet more than half (53%) have not updated their will.

Royal London says that many people do not realise that if they were to marry, any previous will is automatically invalidated and is no longer of any value, “so it’s vital that wills are reviewed and kept up to date.”

More than half (54%) of the adult population do not have a will in place.

Of those who do not have a will one in four (24%) admitted they had no intention of making one, compared to a third (34%) who said that an illness would encourage them to do so.

Using the services of a solicitor is the most popular way of writing a will, with two thirds (68%) using legal assistance.

A spokesperson for Royal London commented: “It is incredibly important to have a will, not just to protect your finances but to make sure vital decisions, such as who will look after your children, are noted.”

“Once you have a will you should update it after any significant life events that could affect your financial situation such as getting married, divorced or starting a family”

“Taking these important steps allows you to have peace of mind knowing that when you’re gone your wishes will be met.”

 

Contact us here to discuss how we can help professionally write your Will.

 

Why are more Wills being contested?

There has been an increase in the number of Wills being disputed by family members. Why is this happening and what can you do to try to ensure your assets to go where you want them to?

 

A death in the family can either bring a family closer together or tear it apart.

English law allows testators (people who make a Will) to make a Will leaving their worldly goods to whomever they chose, whether this be family members, friends or a charity.

Over the last couple of years, there has been a rise in the number of claims being brought by disappointed family members under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975.

This Act enables certain categories of people to make a claim against an estate on the basis that the deceased’s Will (or the intestacy rules if the deceased died without making a Will) fails to make reasonable financial provision for them.

 

There are several reasons behind this increase:

Illot v Mitson

First, in March 2017 the Supreme Court handed down its high profile judgement in Illot v Mitson. This case was the subject of many column inches in the national press.

It was a case about a mother and daughter who had been estranged for 26 years. When the mother died, she left her estate to three animal charities and nothing to her daughter. Her daughter brought a claim under the Act, arguing that the Will failed to make reasonable financial provision for her maintenance.

 

Concept of maintenance

Claims under the Act by non-spouses revolve around this concept of maintenance. Broadly speaking, maintenance means payments to meet the claimant’s recurring daily living expenses. In considering a claim, the Judge must consider and regard the claimant’s financial needs, as well as those of the beneficiaries.

Contrary to popular belief, the Act is not designed to hand out windfalls or to undo what a disappointed child may perceive as a grave injustice of being left out.

Despite how it was widely reported in the press, Illot v Mitson did not really create new law – instead it applied the Act to the very specific facts of that case.

The claimant and her husband had a minimal income and were dependent on state benefits. They had five children. They resided in a housing association property. Because her financial position was so dire, her claim succeeded. Had she been financially independent, she almost certainly would not have done so.

While Illot v Mitson had not set the precedent that was widely reported in the press, what it has done is raise public awareness of the existence of the Act. This in turn has led more people seeking legal advice and an increase in the number of such claims being issued.

 

Complex families

Secondly, we now live in a society where modern families are more complex. Second marriages are increasingly common, which creates a tension between the new spouse, the testator’s children from their first marriage and the testator’s stepchildren.

The Act enables not only children to make a claim but also spouses, civil partners, co-habitees, people treated as a child of the family and any other person who was being maintained by the deceased. Ultimately it is for the testator to do whatever they like with their estate, but careful drafting is needed to address those tensions and being mindful of a potential challenge under the Act.

 

House price rises

In addition, property prices have increased exponentially over the last 20 years, meaning that even a modest house is now worth a considerable amount of money. This can create certain expectations within families of what people are likely to receive.

When there are sizeable assets at stake, people will invest money to pursue a claim in the hope of receiving a bigger share of the estate. Claims under the Act necessarily come at a difficult time, following the loss of a loved one, and the stress and costs of litigation at this vulnerable point can lead to settlements – even of cases without enough merit.

 

Preparing your own Will (DIY Will)

Furthermore, the proliferation of the internet and the temptation to prepare your own Will using an online toolkit without the benefit of a legal professional can also lead to a testator’s true intentions not being conveyed. Again, this can spark dispute if someone has been told one thing, but the actual Will does not achieve that end.

Finally, there is the human factor. Many probate disputes are about much more than dividing up the financial assets. A death can cause all manner of historically held grievances within a family to be aired, which entrenches positions and further increases the likelihood of a claim being made.

 

Minimising the risk of Will disputes

So, what can a testator do to try and minimise the risk of their estate being fought over by family after they have gone? Having difficult conversations to manage expectations is a good starting point – if someone knows that they will not be inheriting a significant sum and the reasons for this, they are less likely to contest this decision than if this later comes as a nasty surprise.

If that is a conversation that cannot be had, the testator can explain the position in a letter of wishes. This document is not legally binding but gives the testator the opportunity to speak from beyond the grave and explain the reasoning behind their decisions. Such a letter may make a disappointed family member think twice before challenging a Will.  Using a professional Will writer to write your Will helps avoid undesired future outcomes and helps protect against any potential disputes on your assets and estate.

 

Contact us here to discuss how we can professionally write your Will.

 

 

How can I protect my children’s inheritance?

Without the correct ‘Bloodline Planning’ :

• Your spouse/partner and children may not inherit your share of a business

• Some or all of your children’s or grandchildren’s (Bloodline’s) inheritance may be lost

• Assets distributed to beneficiaries exposes those assets to risk

 

Assets not protected by a Trust face attack from :

• The divorce or separation settlements of future generations

• Creditors or bankruptcy claims

• Further inheritance tax bills

 

How can I protect my children’s inheritance ?

Or more commonly known as ‘Bloodline Planning’

‘Bloodline Planning’ is ensuring that your assets reach your children, grandchildren and other relatives, rather than ending up in the wrong hands.

When assets are distributed to beneficiaries, (ie they receive cash, property or others assets as a direct lump sum payment) so much can be lost. These assets are then considered to be part of the Beneficiary’s estate and be would be at risk of attack from any future Divorce Settlements, Creditors and Taxation.

U-PLAN can ensure that your children and grandchildren are able to benefit completely from the inheritance you want them to receive and at the same time, protect the family home and other assets from being lost to the costs of long term care.

Consideration should be given to what might happen if your surviving spouse were to remarry. How would this effect your own children if he/she later changed their Will in favour of the new spouse and any subsequent children?

Or, for those of you who already have children from a previous marriage, how do you ensure that they would get their fair share?

What if your children are very young or have special care needs? How can you ensure that they are fully provided for?

There may also be a business you have worked hard to build up. Logic and common sense say you would want to protect this for your family too?

Do you really want to leave it all to chance, when with our professional help to set up the correct type of planning – all these problems could be solved?

Our expertise will ensure that your assets are both fully protected from attack and immediately available to your loved ones after you are gone.

 

Asset Planning in your lifetime

Some estate planning can be made whilst you are alive. Assets could potentially be gifted to Beneficiaries before your death. The could prove extremely tax efficient in terms of Inheritance Tax, as assets gifted away are fully outside of the Donors estate seven years after the gift is made.

However, rather than gifting assets absolutely, as this would mean that these assets will again be potentially at risk from Divorce, Creditors and Long Term Care Costs, as well as adding value to the recipients estate, it would be sensible to consider gifting with the aid of Discretionary Trusts. The Discretionary Gift Trust means that, although you make a Gift to your children and grandchildren, the asset need not enter their own estate; thus protecting these assets from any possible claims on them in the future.

By Gifting to a Trust, the Donor retains full control but, can not have access to the funds.
Even if the Donor never received any benefit, but potentially could, the Gift is classed as a ‘Gift With Reservation Of Benefit’ (GWR) and the full value is deemed to be in the Donor’s estate at death for Inheritance Tax purposes, not just the initial Gift. The Gift Trust ensures that a spouse, children, grandchildren and any other named Beneficiaries can benefit at the Trustee’s discretion.

 

Access to protected assets

We recommend a Discretionary Trust called a probate trust which, while still protecting assets from attack from Care Costs, allows the Settlor access to the assets held in the Trust. The trust has a memorandum of wishes where the Settlor is also a Beneficiary. The purpose for utilising this Trust will be for ‘ Bloodline Planning’ and not Inheritance Tax Planning, as a transfer of asset by the Settlor would be a GWR.

The main uses for a Family Probate Trust are the assignment of investment bonds to ensure it will pass to those intended without the need to wait for Probate. In addition, for a single/widowed client, a proportion of the main residence can be conveyed into our Probate Trust, which can protect the house from the costs of care. Individual advice would be required as to whether this is an appropriate course of action.

 

Utilising Trusts for ‘Bloodline Planning’ 

It has been established that your children/grandchildren future inheritance can be at risk from a number of issues. Taxation is one, but inheritances can be impacted from a number of other more emotional issues such as Care Costs, where an estate can be reduced significantly in value to pay for these costs. Family homes may have to be sold, and income and investments drained, seriously reducing any subsequent inheritance.

 

Family circumstances can also be a concern

It my be that there are some family members you would wish to benefit and some that you would not. A classic scenario would be an individual who has married into the family, but who you wouldn’t want to benefit from your estate. Family disputes do occur and Divorce and/or Remarriage can greatly influence who inherits and by how much.

Subsequently, if on inheriting monies, an individual then divorces, that same inheritance is at risk.
Similarly, if an individual inherits assets but then is later subjected to bankruptcy proceedings, or has creditor liabilities, then the whole inheritance is at risk.

The correct Trusts can provide the protection and control of a multitude of assets from those risks noted before. This protection can extend from the family home, to investment products and family businesses.

There are two potential scenarios where planning can be made with Trusts. One is during your lifetime and the other is in preparation for your death. We can utilise a range of Trusts in conjunction with the Will, which will ensure that your hard earned assets are fully protected for your children and grandchildren. By its very nature, this type of planning is wholly dependant on your individual wishes, requirements and the value of your estate.

 

Contact us here to discuss how we can help with Bloodline Planning.

 

Why a professionally written Will is so important

Everybody knows the importance of having a Will, as this is something that is often highlighted to us, but what isn’t often mentioned is the importance of making sure that Will is properly written and therefore legally binding.

Yet, a Will written incorrectly, or not properly witnessed, could be equal to not having written a Will at all, leaving your loved ones with a legacy of taxes, paperwork and legal bills.

So, what constitutes an incorrectly written Will? There are various details that could invalidate a Will or cause undue additional problems; from something as simple as spelling someone’s name incorrectly and not using their legal name, to a Will whereby the specific wording fails to meet requirements. Whilst you would assume that if you went to a high street solicitor or even purchased a Will writing kit online the wording would be correct, you could be wrong.

“I only have a small inheritance to leave, so will be fine to do my own DIY Will” – often people think this is the case, until they speak to a professional and discover important truths, that there are more complexities and aspects to their estate than they first thought. Not only is there the issue of what you own and choose to leave to your loved ones, but how do you factor in if someone in your Will dies, divorces, re-marries, has more children, step-children…the list goes on.

Re-marriage is just one example of where things can get complicated – if you leave everything to your spouse and their Will states that they then pass everything on to your/their children equally after their death, you might assume that would mean that your spouse and children are looked after? This assumption is where problems can and do exist within inadequately written Wills.

Take this example:

Jennifer’s father dies, after he dies his estate is passed to his wife Barbara (Jennifer’s stepmother), Barbara had written a mirror Will of her husband’s stating that the estate would be passed equally between Jennifer and her own son. However, after the death of Jennifer’s father Barbara remarried, changed her Will and left everything to her son and new step children and nothing to Jennifer. This is perfectly legal, but morally was it the right thing to do and would Jennifer’s father have approved?

By using a legal professional that isn’t necessarily an expert in the field of Will writing, or using a DIY Will Writing Kit, you run the risk of having an invalidated Will, and not just this, even if your Will is perfectly valid, it does not mean you have received the best advice and strategy possible regarding your desired outcomes for you and your loved ones in the future.

 Contact us here and find out how we can help with your Will. 

 

Wills – Deeds of Variation and the RNRB ( Residential Nil Rate Band)

A Will is arguably the most important document you will ever make. Sitting down with your trusted advisor, talking through your options and finally executing the document can provide you with the peace of mind in knowing that if anything should happen, your wishes will be carried out.

After signing their Will, the vast majority of people will store their documents in a safe place, confident that no matter what happens, they have a Will that does exactly what they want to do. But what if things change? What if the Law changes? What if your finances (and more importantly your wishes) change dramatically?

Signing a Will is a big step towards providing financial security for your family, however an outdated Will that hasn’t taken into account new legislation, exemptions and reliefs can actually leave your Beneficiaries with a significant headache. We therefore need to ask

Is there any way of rectifying the problem of an outdated Will after someone has passed away?

Deeds of Variation are very powerful documents. They provide the beneficiaries of your Will with the ability to “change” the distribution of an estate to accurately reflect the wishes of the deceased and ensure that there will not be any negative Inheritance Tax or Capital Gains Tax implications of this “redistribution”. They also allow the beneficiaries to change the distribution of the estate to ensure that additional tax reliefs will apply in the event that the law has changed since the Will (and any Trusts that the estate might be left to) was executed.

The introduction of the Residential Nil Rate Band (RNRB) in 2017 sent shockwaves through the world of Wills and Trusts. To qualify for this new tax allowance your Will needs to ensure that “lineal descendants” (commonly Children and Grand-Children) receive an interest in your home after your death. Unfortunately, the vast majority of those Wills made before 2015 are unlikely to satisfy the various requirements. By using a Deed of Variation, a family can ensure that, if necessary, the RNRB is obtained by “redistributing” a proportion of the estate to the “correct” person.

Ensuring that your Will is “up to date” is always best practice, regular reviews can identify any weaknesses in the planning that you have. However, should you lose the ability to amend your Will or simply forget to make the necessary changes before you pass away, all is not lost. With the consent of your Beneficiaries, amendments can be made post death to both your Wills and Trusts to ensure that your family are in the best possible position moving forward.

Get in touch with us  for more help and information.

6 out of 10 adults do not have a Will

Thinking about a time when you are no longer around may feel uncomfortable, but failing to plan ahead can risk leaving a serious financial headache and expense for loved-ones who are left behind. New research shows that six in ten adults are taking this risk as they do not have a will. Many think a will is not necessary because they believe family and friends will choose who gets what of any assets – but this is not the case.

When someone dies without a will, rules of ‘intestacy’ kick in – and it falls to the state to determine how an individual’s worldly goods and assets are distributed. These decisions made may not reflect their individual wishes. Unmarried couples have no inheritance rights under this law while the complexity of modern families is not addressed, meaning children from previous marriages could miss out.

Such anomalies are currently under consideration in a review by the Law Commission aiming to structure the will-making process friendlier and more appropriate to modern family arrangements. This is no reason to put off writing a will, individuals and families need to understand the huge benefits of having a will and the even bigger risks of not having one.

Many individuals procrastinate and delay making a will because they believe they are too young or perhaps think they do not have the required financial assets. Other concerns are costs – or not knowing how to go about organising a will. Individuals could argue they do not need a will because they either have little money in the bank or believe death is far off in the future.

However, people need to think about who they want to inherit their belongings, such as their home, car, jewellery and in some instances – their pets. It is so important to put this down in writing, so family and friends can honour all these wishes. The lack of a will can and does, trigger bitter disputes after death and some loved ones can miss out entirely.

Dying without a valid Will can lead to confusion and uncertainty for the families left behind. To improve the chances of your wishes being carried out, it is crucial to put an effective will in place.

Writing a Will is the sort of issue you can keep putting off, but with the certainty that every life will end, it is important to have something in place just in case it happens unexpectedly and before an individual’s average life expectancy is reached.

People with straightforward financial affairs may be tempted to buy a DIY will kit, either off-the-shelf or online for a few pounds. But be wary of taking the DIY option without legal know how. There are numerous legal pitfalls to navigate – and there are risks of things going wrong.

Some of the most common problems with DIY wills include documents being written in ambiguous language; the will not dealing with all the assets and belongings in the estate; and paperwork not being signed correctly. In some instances, this can cause as many problems as having no will at all. If a will is open to misinterpretation, the courts may have to decide what the intentions were. This can prove an arduous – and potentially costly – process for families.

Once a will is written it should not be forgotten. It is worth revisiting the paperwork every few years or after key events – such as marriage, having children or following divorce. Most people might not be aware that divorce and marriage revoke any previous will.  Failure to understand this rule means that children of a first relationship, say, named in the original will, may get far less, or even nothing – to the benefit of a second spouse, which is probably not what the deceased intended.

With all the complexities of modern life and the interchangeable relationships over time between money, assets, family, loved ones and the uncertainty of health issues and accidents – it makes good sense to set up a Will sooner rather than later.

Get in touch with us to see how we can help you set up a Will.