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Wills (Maximum Cost per Person £110.00, or per Couple £170.00 and NO VAT)
What Happens if I Die Without a VALID Will?
Under what is known as the “Law of Intestacy”, if you are married when you die then your spouse will receive all of your personal belongings, including any vehicles, as well as up to the first £270,000 of your estate value.
Any value greater than this will be apportioned out as 50% for your spouse and 50% shared equally between your surviving children. If there are no children, your entire estate will pass directly to your spouse.
If you are not married, then your estate will be shared equally between your surviving children.
This is the case regardless of whether you are estranged from your spouse or any of your children. Furthermore, the same applies regardless of whether your spouse is the parent of your children.
When there is no spouse and there are no surviving children, the Law of Intestacy passes along a hierarchy beginning with your surviving parents equally. If there are no surviving parents, then your surviving siblings equally, failing that then your closest full-blood relatives equally or your closest half-blood relatives thereafter. If there are no surviving full-blood or half-blood relatives then your estate will ultimately pass to the Crown (the state).
No gifts of items or money can be made to any other person or institution (e.g. charities) unless an automatic beneficiary agrees to forego such gifts from their legally rightful inheritance.
Usually, as there is no Will in place, the majority beneficiary will administer your estate, whether that is your wish or not.
Finally, if you have married since arranging your Will, and that marriage is not referenced within that pre-arranged Will, then it has been automatically revoked by law and you no longer have a VALID Will. This has resulted in many children being accidentally disinherited from their parent’s estate (please see below).
Can a Solicitor, Bank or other Institution be an Executor of my Will?
An Executor is the person, people or company who officially administer your estate after your death. They are legally bound to honour the wishes of your Will and distribute your assets accordingly.
Although you can elect a solicitor, bank or other institution (e.g. Co-op Legal Services, etc.) to act as an Executor of your Will, this is a highly expensive and largely unnecessary action. There are far more cost-effective options available to assist family members in acting as an Executor instead. This means that more money is available to share between the beneficiaries of your Will.
Can I Accidentally Disinherit my Children?
Yes, sadly this is becoming an increasing problem within our society. People who do not have a valid Will automatically pass the majority, if not all of their estate to their spouse who is NOT the parent of their children.
This problem is compounded by the fact that if the deceased has remarried after previously being widowed themselves, they will probably pass their deceased spouse’s assets, as well as their own, to their new spouse rather than their children.
This problem can be easily and cost-effectively avoided by ensuring that you have the appropriate clauses and wording contained within your legally valid Will document.
A correctly structured Will can, at the very least, ensure that a previously deceased spouse’s assets can NOT be accidentally passed to a new spouse of the survivor. However, a surviving spouse would enjoy FULL use and benefit of their deceased spouse’s assets during their subsequent lifetime.
This solution is also very useful in preventing a surviving spouse having to use their deceased spouse’s assets, as well as their own, if they subsequently require care which is not funded by the NHS.
Can I Elect to NOT Provide for a Spouse or Child upon my Death?
Yes, under the laws of England & Wales, we enjoy “Testamentary Freedom” which means that you are free to leave what you want to whomever you want PROVIDED any person excluded as a beneficiary of your Will is not financially disadvantaged as a result of your death. Minor children and financial dependants would be financially disadvantaged by your death.
You would need to ensure that your Will contains the appropriate wording and that you also support your Will with the necessary additional explanatory documentation.
Must I use a Solicitor to arrange my Will?
No, although you may choose to, many solicitor firms operate with high trading costs. As a result, they pass these costs onto their clients which usually leads to higher prices.
Provided you use a reputable Will Writing firm which adheres to a strict code of practice, has the appropriate insurance policies in place and its representatives are suitably qualified, this can prove to be a far more cost-effective solution.
Where should I store my Will Document(s)?
It is always important to keep documents in a safe place. This is even more important when someone may seek to benefit by interfering with a Will after a death.
If an estranged spouse or child, who is not provided for in a Will, understands the Law of Intestacy (please see above) and discovers the official Will document of the deceased, they may be inclined to destroy that Will. Although this is illegal, it is very difficult to prove and that family member could subsequently benefit from your estate, against your wishes.
If you ensure that your official Will document is stored in a safe independent location, nobody can then interfere with it before it is officially administered.
What Happens to my Share of Jointly Owned Property when I Die?
If someone dies and they own property jointly with someone else, the deceased’s share may not pass to their desired beneficiaries. If you own property with another as “Joint Tenants”, then upon your death your share of that property passes automatically to the surviving co-owner, regardless of what is contained within your Will or who you wish to inherit your share.
However, if you own property with another jointly as “Tenants-in-Common”, then you are free to leave your share to whomever you wish within your Will.
This is particularly important when co-owners are estranged, or if they are business partners, and do NOT wish their joint shareholding to pass to the surviving co-owner.