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A third of us die without a will. Apart from being a problem for your family, the only winner will be the state.
Dying intestate – without writing a will – risks leaving your estate in the wrong hands and a larger slice with the taxman than necessary.
The Law Society says one in three people in the UK die intestate, and half of all people over the age of 45 have not made a will. It's far better to make a will at any stage of life than let the intestacy rules come into play which can prove pretty disastrous in many types of situations. This remains a vital part of financial planning to reduce the risk of leaving unintended bequests to the state or distant family members.
Unless you make a Will, you cannot guarantee that your belongings will be distributed as you want when you die. It is surprising the number of individuals who do not have a Will and who die without making sure that those whom they wish to benefit from their estate after their death do so. As a result, many unnecessary complications arise, adding to the grief of the bereaved and the expense of winding up the deceased person's estate.
If you die without a Will (“intestate“) the law decides who will receive your possessions. If you are married and die intestate, it is a common misconception that the surviving spouse inherits everything. This is not always the case and depends on the size of the estate; brothers and sisters and parents may make a claim. If you are not married but living with your partner and die intestate, your partner receives nothing.
Only a legally adopted child is classed (in law) as a son or daughter. Stepchildren need to be protected and named in the Will of their step-parent, if that step-parent wishes them to inherit as their natural child would.
Anyone over the age of 18 (12 in Scotland) can make a Will. Apart from the wish to choose to whom you leave your estate, you should also consider the following reasons for writing a Will:
• Marriage/Civil Partnership
You should make a new Will when you get married or enter into a civil partnership.
• Divorce/dissolution of civil partnership
You should make a new Will if you get divorced or your civil partnership is dissolved.
You may have separated from your spouse/civil partner and wish others to receive the benefit of your estate.
If you have children under the age of 18 (16 in Scotland) you may wish to appoint specific individuals as guardians and you will want to provide for such children allowing the guardian to control the money which is left to your children until they have reached the age of majority. If no one knows what you would have wanted, the Court will decide on the future of your children and it may not be what you or your children would have wished.
You may wish to appoint specific persons whom you trust to administer your estate after your death.
• Inheritance tax
You may wish to structure your Will in such a way as to reduce your inheritance tax liability.