Advice for life

10 Reasons Why You Should Review Your Will & Estate Planning Documents

10 Reasons Why You Should Review Your Will & Estate Planning Documents

A large proportion of the population have no Will. Many people either just don't want to think about the possibility of their own death, or assume that if they die their estate will go to the people they want. Unfortunately in many cases it won't and your estate could end up going to people you didn’t intend, as well as causing potential problems for your loved ones.

Here are the ten most important reasons to make a Will.

  1. Make sure your estate goes to the people you want to provide for

Fundamentally, it is a matter of choice. If you make a Will you decide what happens to everything you own when you die. If you don't make a Will, then when you pass away you will be referred to as "dying intestate” and your estate will be divided according to the intestacy rules, meaning your assets may go to people you would not have intended and people you wanted to provide for may be left out.

  1. Give security to an unmarried partner

If you are you living with someone to whom you are not married and die without leaving a Will, your partner will not be entitled to any of your estate, except where there are assets you own jointly. Making a Will can allow you to leave assets from your estate to your partner, ensuring their long-term welfare is provided for.

  1. Ensure your dependents’ needs will be met

If you have children under 18 or other dependants, it is important to ensure their needs are met if you pass away before they are able to care for themselves. Your Will can allow you to make provision for assets to be held in trust for your children’s benefit until they are old enough to manage those assets for themselves. You can also appoint guardians to look after your minor children if you should pass away before they have attained the age of 18.

  1. Protect your children’s inheritance when getting remarried

If you are getting married and have children from a previous relationship, this can cause complications with inheritance. If you do not have a Will, your new spouse will automatically stand to inherit most or all of your estate if you pass away, superseding your children’s claim. It is therefore essential to set out your wishes in a Will to ensure your children are not left out.

  1. Give your partner or children the right to stay in your home after your death

If you own your own home it may need to be sold once you pass away in order to divide your estate effectively between your heirs. However, if you are sharing the house with your spouse, civil partner, unmarried partner, children or other dependants, you may want to make sure they are not thrown out of their home when you pass away.

By making a Will you can create a ‘life interest’ in the property for your loved one meaning they can stay in the house for as long as they live, while still allowing your children or other intended beneficiaries to inherit the house.

  1. Provide for a vulnerable loved one’s long-term care

If you have a child or other loved one who is a vulnerable person needing long-term care, creating a Will can make sure their welfare needs continue to be met when you are no longer around. This might involve setting up a trust to provide for them financially as well as various other practical measures.

  1. Minimise your estate’s liability for Inheritance Tax

By making the right choices over how your estate is handled, you can often reduce the overall Inheritance Tax bill due when you pass away. This might involve making lifetime gifts while you are still alive, placing certain assets into a trust, as well as various other options.

  1. Place your estate into the hands of someone you trust

As part of making a Will, you can name one or more people to act as the Executor of your estate when you die. They will be responsible for handling probate, including paying Inheritance Tax and making sure your bequests are given out as instructed. Making a Will helps to ensure this role will be handled by someone you trust. 

  1. Help your loved ones avoid unnecessary conflict

Unfortunately, inheritance issues are often a major source of conflict between loved ones of the deceased. Making a Will helps to ensure your wishes are clear, minimising the possibilities of a dispute between your loved ones as well as limiting the opportunities for anyone to challenge your wishes after you are gone.

  1. Give yourself peace of mind

One of the simplest but most important reasons to make a Will is that it can give you peace of mind from the knowledge that your estate and loved ones will be taken care of when you die and that all of the proper details have been considered and accounted for. Many people comment on what a relief it is to have their affairs in order and to know that they are not leaving their loved ones with any potential problems or uncertainty for the future.

Common questions about making a Will

When should you update your Will?

Opinions vary on how often people should review and update their Wills. It will usually be a good idea to think about this when you or your loved ones go through a major life event that could impact who you wish to provide for or who might stand to benefit from any bequests you have included in your current Will.

Common times to review and update a Will include:

  • When getting married or entering a civil partnership
  • When getting divorced
  • When moving in with a partner you are not married to
  • When buying property or other assets with an unmarried partner
  • If you have children
  • If your children get married or have children of their own
  • If you inherit or otherwise acquire significant new assets
  • If your family relationships or other priorities have changed

What happens if you die without leaving a Will?

If you die without leaving a Will, your estate will be divided according to the rules of intestacy. These rules set out exactly who can inherit depending on the size of your estate and what living relatives you have.

No regard will usually be given to what you may or may not have intended to happen to your estate e.g. a partner whom you were not married to or in a civil partnership with has no right to inherit under intestacy rules.

Who inherits when there is no Will?

This depends on the total value of the estate, as well as whether you were married/in a civil partnership, have any children and what other close relatives you have. The rules also vary to some degree whether you are living in England and Wales or elsewhere in the UK.

The rules favour surviving spouses and civil partners, then children, grandchildren and other direct descendants. If you do not have a surviving spouse/civil partner and children or other descendants, then other relatives, such as your siblings, parents, aunt and uncles may be able to inherit.

How much does it cost to make a Will?

The cost of making a Will depends on the circumstances, including how complex your estate is and any specific issues you may need addressed. We are usually able to offer a fixed-fee Will writing service for straightforward Will.

Please get in touch to find out more about the cost of making a Will.

Speak to our friendly, expert Will writing solicitors in Oxford and Wallingford today

This is a general guide which cannot cover all possibilities, and there are many other reasons to make a Will. It isn't hugely expensive, and it won't kill you. The Wills team at Hedges will be happy to give you further advice.

To find out more about making or updating your Will, please contact your local Hedges Law office in Oxford or Wallingford.