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Thankfully, will writing is being given more air time than it used to, but, it still doesn’t stop nearly two thirds of us not having one.
Whilst reading an article in the Times over the weekend the same reasons come to light as to why people don’t write wills. Maybe they think they are too young, or, quite rightly, don’t want to think about death when they are still healthy and active. Perhaps it is because they simply assume their partner or spouse will automatically inherit their estate – but it is this last one that is particularly damaging for families.
If you die “intestate”, in other words when you die without a will, the law then decides who gets what. To speak plainly, it means that someone else who has never met you or your family will decide how your estate is divided. It means any wishes you have prior to your death will not be respected and it could lead to sure-fire family mishaps.
If you are married or in a civil partnership and have children, the first £250,000 of your estate and personal possessions do pass to your spouse, with the rest divided between your spouse and kids. However, considering the average house cost is just shy of that value, it doesn’t take long before an estate is entailed away. Plus, if you have grown up children who have become estranged, or you have step children, it might not be fair to simply divide it in this way.
If you are unmarried with no children, your assets will go straight to your parents. If they are not alive, the inheritance line goes along surviving relatives, starting with brothers and sisters and their children. In circumstances where there is no surviving relative, your estate passes to the Crown. The law does not recognise an unmarried partner no matter how long you have been together even if you have children.
Not only can having a will provide clarity and peace of mind, it can also speed up the process after a person dies, preventing any prolonged unhappiness among family members. There are a number of very simple ways you can write a will, but always ensure you seek advice from a solicitor to ensure it has the legal seal of approval.
For starters, I see a number of people present me with a sheet of paper they perceive to be a will, but actually it is worthless in the eyes of the law because they haven’t included a declaration confirming they have signed it in the presence of two witnesses. Those that have been signed by witnesses quite often just include a signature. That’s it. No contact details, such as an address and phone number. Equally invalid – otherwise how can anyone verify that they are a legitimate witness? You also have to be careful who can be a witness as you could unwittingly invalidate a gift in the will.
There are very strict rules surrounding the way in which will should be written. We know that most people don’t make writing a will a priority for a number of reasons, but, it is easier than you think with the right advice and relatively inexpensive too. Ultimately it is about carrying out your wishes and protecting your family – and who wouldn’t want that.
Our Private Client team at Downs Solicitors is well versed in helping clients write wills and Lasting Power of Attorneys. We work with you to make sure we are safeguarding your wishes and provide advice for the future should your circumstances change. Contact us for more information.