Wills & Probate
- Why make a Will?
- A few words of warning
- Disputed Wills and Inheritance Claims
Most people are aware that failing to make a Will can cause problems after their death, but few realise the possible outcomes.
We provide specialist legal advice on helping clients preserve and transfer family assets to family, friends and other beneficiaries (including making charitable gifts).
We are able to advise on straightforward Wills and those requiring tax planning to ensure that as much of the family wealth is retained within the family and not paid in taxes.
Why make a Will?
Making a will is a simple and responsible way in which you can protect your loved ones after death.
It is relatively inexpensive to make a simple will, and even if a more complicated will is required, in the long term, it can save expense, difficulty and upset for the loved ones who you leave behind.
Recent polls suggest that two in every three people have not made a will. Many of us prefer not to think about what will happen after we die, but failing to make a will can result in a financial nightmare which loved ones then have to resolve.
There are many situations where failure to make a will can cause problems, for example:
- Married couples often assume they do not need a will as their spouse will inherit all of their estate when they die. This is not correct; the law limits the amount a spouse can inherit while the remainder is placed in trust for the deceased’s children.
- If the couple do not have children, the situation is even worse; the spouse is only entitled to retain a limited sum and the remainder is shared out between the deceased person’s extended family.
- The above examples also apply to same-sex couples in a registered civil partnership.
- The survivor of an unmarried couple has even fewer rights; they may not be entitled to inherit anything, even if they have been in a very long relationship.
- Ultimately, if you do not make a will, people who you would prefer not to inherit your possessions may do so. They may also be entitled to make a claim on your estate through the courts.
- Even if you have only modest assets, the government may be entitled to your assets by means of a large inheritance tax bill.
This list is not exhaustive.
We can advise you on the most effective way to leave gifts in a will to make sure that the people you wish to benefit from your estate actually do. We will also ensure that there are no errors in the document which would invalidate it.
Once made, a will can easily be altered if your circumstances change.
A Few Words of Warning
Although it is relatively straightforward to make a simple Will, there are dangers in using the ‘kit’ forms to make home-made wills.
For example, poor wording can mean that a gift fails and the monies are re-directed to people you would not wish to benefit in this way.
We can advise you on what can be achieved in your Will and ensure that the correct people benefit from your estate. We will help you to make wise decisions in order to assist your loved ones and resolve your estate as simply as possible after your death, and will discuss the costs involved beforehand with you.
Equally, we have seen instances where a gift has been invalid because their spouse or civil partner has witnessed the Will. This is easily avoided, but a rule which often causes problems in home-made Wills.
Where children have been brought up, but not legally adopted, by a step-mother or step-father, the step-parent must make a Will in order to ensure that their step-child receives part or all of their estate if this is their wish. If no Will is made, the intestacy rules (which operate when a person has not made a Will) means that step-children are not entitled to inherit a person’s estate. In such circumstances, a person’s closest blood relative stands to inherit the estate. A simple, inexpensive Will can ensure that beloved step-children can receive all or part of a person’s estate, where without a Will they would receive nothing.
We can also guide you through the difficult period following a person’s death, making it less worrying by leading you through the practical complexities involved in caring for their estate.
We can help and advise on inheritance, capital gains and income tax issues which arise. In certain cases Wills can be varied or rectified to ensure that the Estate is more efficiently distributed.
We have particular expertise in advising the beneficiaries of those who have not left a Will.
We work closely with a local firm of genealogists who specialise in searching for missing beneficiaries so that a Deceased’s family can locate those entitled to share in an estate. It can often arise that the deceased is unknown to the surviving family members but meticulous research and a sensitive approach ensure that the entitled beneficiaries are located and advised.
Disputed Wills & Inheritance Claims
Unfortunately it can often arise that the consequences of a Will, or lack of a Will, lead to disputes.
This might involve us advising on claims or defending claims which challenge –
- the validity of the Will;
- the principle that the Will, or lack of one, does not provide reasonably for family and other people who are entitled to share in a Deceased’s estate through the Inheritance (Family and Dependants) Act 1975.