Everyone should have a Will, no matter what they own, or their family situation. The best way to understand why Wills are so important is to explain what happens if you die without having made a Will and compare that with some of the benefits of having a professionally drawn up Will.
Here are three disadvantages for not having a Will:
1. If you don’t have a Will: It could be more costly and take longer to complete the administration of your estate and the person dealing with winding up your estate may not be someone you would have chosen.
If you don’t have a Will, you are “intestate”. That means that someone to administer your estate (your executor) will have to be appointed by an application to the court. The intestacy rules are strict and the person or people that may be appointed as your executor are limited by the law and can often be someone who you may not necessarily have chosen yourself.
Some of the decisions that are made by an executor can be quite personal and it could be somebody that you wouldn’t have wanted making those decisions.
An application to the court to appoint an executor inevitably means a delay and added cost to the administration of your estate.
2. If you don’t have a Will: It is possible your estate may have to pay for insurance to cover the actions of a court appointed executor.
Before the Executor(s) appointed by the court can start to administer your estate, they may have to take out insurance to cover their actions. The insurance is paid for out of your estate and will lead to further delays and costs.
The policy is a requirement to protect the beneficiaries for any misconduct or mistakes of the executor. For most family situations, where the executor is also a beneficiary, this is an extra cost which serves no real practical purpose.
If you have a Will, this insurance is not normally required.
3. If you don’t have a Will: You have no say over who inherits your property, who you may want to look after your children or what is to happen to your remains.
Most importantly, if you pass away without having a Will, the legislation says who will inherit your property, and this may not be who you would have chosen, or have expected to inherit it.
Your estate would be distributed using intestacy rules that were created over 50 years ago. These rules make no allowances for special items or relationships or your closeness, or otherwise, to your relatives. Your estate may not be divided in a tax effective way, and your estate could therefore face a tax bill that could have been avoided. It could also mean young relatives inherit large sums without any proper oversight or protection.
If the statutory rules are to be followed for the division of your estate, it is possible that someone who you don’t wish to inherit from your estate will, in fact, inherit.
This leaves room for family arguments and can cause added distress to your loved ones at an already difficult time.
Advantages of having a Will:
- You state who you wish to inherit your assets and who your Executor(s) are.
- You can consider and plan for any tax liabilities your estate may face. This can ensure your beneficiaries receive your assets and not the State.
- You can determine the age at which any younger beneficiaries will inherit. You can even nominate who you want to be Guardians to your children, if they are under the age of 16.
- You can, record your wishes about a funeral, burial or cremation. At a time of grieving this can offer great assistance to relatives who may not know your wishes if you do not put them down on paper.
- You can also avoid family arguments because your wishes are set out in black and white.
What should you do?
The best way to avoid additional cost, delay, uncertainty and distress for your surviving family is to plan for the future now, by making an appointment to see your solicitor to make a Will, or to review your existing Will to make sure it is still up to date.
Making a Will can be quick, easy and relatively inexpensive compared to dying without one. It is generally a very simple process, and most Wills are straightforward.
Graham Lambert is a Senior Solicitor in our specialist Private Client team. For more information about Wills and Inheritance Tax Planning contact a member of our private client team to make an appointment today.