Statistics show that around two thirds of Britons do not have a Will, adopting instead a ‘head in the sand’ approach to formalising their wishes after death. For couples who are not married but living together it is even more vital to understand the importance of making a Will and implications of dying ‘intestate’ (without a Will). Here Helen Bradin, Partner at solicitors Bradin Trubshaw & Kirwan LLP explains why no-one should turn a blind eye to sorting out their affairs.
Q: I’m only 25, not in a long term relationship and don’t have a house, so why do I need to make a Will?
Helen: We so often find that people delay writing a Will for the reasons that you have given – thinking that they are too young or that they do not have enough assets or possessions. We tend to think of large cash inheritances and property but if you suddenly die without a Will the law takes over and dictates how any money or possessions (even the smallest ones) you do have will be distributed – which may not be how you would have wished. Even though you are young and single it’s never too early to be prepared. Just because you have a Will, it doesn’t mean you are going to die any time soon.
Q: I have bought a house with my partner. I presume that he would automatically inherit my half of the house and my belongings in the event of my death anyway?
Helen: This is an area where often people come unstuck. Under the Rules of Intestacy, when a person dies without a Will there are strict and specific laws governing who can administer your estate, who can inherit from it and how much they will receive which follows your family tree, in a pre-determined order of priority. As you are not married, you and your partner cannot inherit from each other unless there is a Will, so if you want to ensure that he inherits your assets and possessions it’s important to formalise it. I have dealt with far too many arguments between family members that could have been avoided by simply making a Will.
Q: I’ve seen Will writing packs in shops and on the Internet so surely I can write my own Will?
Helen: Yes, this is an option though unless your Will is extremely straightforward there is a risk that it would be invalid. And the more complicated the parameters, the higher the risk. The language of Wills is based on legal precedents and the ‘jargon’ can be confusing although it is much clearer than it used to be. If you choose to make a Will yourself it is advisable to get a solicitor to check it to make sure it will have the effect you want and to avoid any potentially costly legal disputes after your death.
Q: How often do I need to update my Will?
Helen: As a general rule we advise people to review their Will every five years and after a change of circumstances such as having a child, getting married, separating, divorcing or remarrying where there could be several family members who may make a claim on the Will such as a second wife/husband or children from a first marriage. You should also consider who will be responsible for any children under the age of 18 and set up trusts to provide for dependents.
Q: Who can make a Will?
Helen: Anyone over the age of 18 can make a Will. For it to be legally valid it has to be signed in the presence of two witnesses and signed by the two witnesses in the presence of the person making the Will. Be aware though that if a witnesses is a beneficiary they can make the will invalid. Wills must also be made voluntarily and by a person of sound mind.
Bradin Trubshaw & Kirwan LLP is supporting Will Aid in November, waiving its fee for a basic Will in return for a donation to charity.
For advice on family and other legal matters contact Bradin Trubshaw & Kirwan LLP on 01543 421840 for a consultation or email firstname.lastname@example.org