If you care about who inherits your assets after your death and you want to avoid causing unnecessary distress to friends and family, you need a Will.
If you die without a Will, strict rules determine how your assets are distributed and who will receive them. Your friends, favoured charities and even some relatives may get nothing.
Making a Will means you make the decisions about your assets.
It's possible to vary the amounts going to your relatives or children; you can set conditions, and you can decide who you want to manage the process for you. These people are the 'executors' of your Will.
The current legal framework does not automatically recognise live-in partners, just married couples.
So even if you've lived together for many years, your partner gets nothing if you have not made a Will, unless your property was in joint names before you died. Your partner can go to court, but making a Will ensures your wishes are followed.
Who gets what?
- Do some preparations before you meet your solicitor at Milburns. There are three areas you will need to cover:
- List everything you own - home, stocks and shares, bank balance, life insurance policies, vehicles and all your valuables and possessions. These are your 'assets'.
- Make a rough calculation of the total value of all these assets. They make up what is called your 'estate'.
- Decide who you want to benefit and how much you want them to receive.
- There are many ways of sharing out your assets. For example, in the case of a home, you can either make someone a straightforward gift or a partial gift. Your solicitor at Milburns can help you decide what is best in your own circumstances.
- Another common variation is to divide your property into percentages so that the people benefiting get a fixed proportion of its value. Some people leave money or property to a favourite charity. Do check the final wording with your solicitor to make sure everything you wanted to cover has been included.
Can I change my Will?
You should go through your Will every year to check that it is still what you want - particularly if your circumstances have changed. Minor changes only need a small amendment, called a 'codicil'. Anything complicated is probably best dealt with by making a new Will. You should then destroy the old one, telling people close to you what you've done so that there's no confusion.
The State may tax what you leave your relatives and friends in your Will. This is called 'Inheritance Tax'. Our solicitors can advise on what steps can be taken to reduce or minimise inheritance tax.
For information about Executors, where to keep your will, living wills and our staff who deal with these matters click here.