Recent and sustained increases in the number of High Court actions to challenge a Will has, more than ever, highlighted the need to make or review your Will. With the increase in divorce rates and the rise in second and even third marriages, cases where children and stepchildren feel left out or hard done by is becoming the norm for solicitors.
There are other considerations too apart from ensuring the “government” doesn’t get the lot, charitable giving and inheritance tax planning. If you have an existing Will which is more than 10 years old or have a homemade or DIY one then a review is long overdue. Access to DIY Wills, both online and from a large high street newsagent can seem like a good idea and certainly less costly. Our rule is “If your estate is worth more than the paper it is written on take professional advice”. However tempting the cheaper option is poorly drafted DIY Wills can prove costly in the long term.
What happens if you are not married and you haven’t made provision for your partner. Intestacy rules (the rules that apply if you don’t have a Will. They say how your estate is divided.) provide for most immediate family members bur not cohabitees. Intestacy rules might not give you the result that you would have wished for. There is no such thing as a “common law” spouse! This is a myth which goes back to the 1700’s. If you are living with someone but have not fully dissolved the marriage then the spouse is still considered to be married to you and could inherit your estate. Let’s not forget the family pet. As a Wills trusts and probate solicitor we know that the older the population the more likely you are to have a pet and will need to make provision for it to be looked after. It has never been more important to keep your Will up to date and dare we say it to those who have not made a Will, to make one.
In the last 2-3 years I have seen an increase in the number of business owners looking to ensure that business interests pass to the right person. When you own a business outright making a Will ensures that it passes to those you wish to take over business. You might want the business to be sold and state who should receive the profits of sale. It can become a real mess if you don’t deal with this sooner rather than later.
The number one rule should be to plan ahead and keep family members informed about what your intentions are. For many who don’t even like talking about Wills discussing your plans can be equally difficult. From time to time you will need to make adjustments to your Will to take into account new partners and stepchildren. Unless you refer to your stepchildren specifically they will not necessarily be entitled to any part of your estate. Also, your circumstances may have changed and you might have inherited from a parent or distant relative or perhaps won the lottery.
If you are not happy with what you have been left in a Will or perhaps left nothing at all the Will can be contested. Most common claims are that there is insufficient or reasonable provision has not been made for spouse and dependent children. However, contemplating a challenge to the Will or considering litigation should be viewed with caution. Going to court can be a lengthy and costly procedure.
At The Law House, we understand that death can be difficult to plan for, particularly with changing family structures, but we can help with comprehensive advice and guidance, whatever your family situation. A properly drafted Will can ensure that the right people get the gifts or financial support you wish them to have. We can help support you through what can be difficult conversations, but by explaining the choices you have made to a loved one, potentially disputes can be resolved before they arise.
If you would like expert advice on making or reviewing your Will please contact me on 020 8899 6620 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org