What do Jimi Hendrix, Pablo Picasso and Abraham Lincoln all have in common? They all died intestate.

Writing your Will is something many people perceive as life admin that gets put on the to-do list to be done at some point. Dying without a Will can cause significant problems for the people you leave behind and should be avoided where at all possible. Only half of the adult population in England and Wales have formalised their final wishes by writing a Will. Contrary to popular opinion, writing your Will is a simple process and most importantly, you are in control.

If you die without a Will, your estate will pass under the intestacy rules. These rules determine who inherits your estate by familial connections and this might not be in line with your wishes. Intestacy rules do not take into account close relationships you may have formed or who is in most need.

Reasons to make a Will:

1. Estranged spouse
Your spouse is first in order of priority for who shall inherit from your estate if you were to die intestate. This includes an estranged spouse who you haven’t spoken to in 20 years. So, if your marriage has broken down but you have not yet finalised your divorce, your ex-spouse may inherit the whole of your estate.

2. Unmarried life partner
If you are in a relationship with someone but you have not formalised your relationship by way of marriage or civil partnership, your life partner has no automatic right to inherit from your estate.

3. Surviving partner’s housing needs
If your home is your main asset, your surviving spouse or life partner may have to sell the home to fund payments for tax or bequests to relatives under the intestacy rules.

4. Controlling who doesn’t inherit from your estate
You can easily disinherit someone via a Will. If you die intestate and your estate passes to your spouse and they remarry and die intestate or pass their estate onto their new spouse, their estate (which now includes yours) would pass to their new spouse. The only way to ensure that the beneficiaries of your choice inherit from your estate is to make a gift via your Will.

5. Guardianship for minor children
You can express your wishes in terms of guardianship via your Will. If both parents were to die, without a record of your wishes, your children may be brought up by someone unsuitable and not in line with who you would want to care for them. This issue cannot be completely covered by a Will but it can certainly indicate your wishes.

6. Inheritance Tax (IHT) Bills
At the date of this article, the government allows you £325,000 tax-free and an additional £175,000 in limited circumstances when you pass away. Anything in your estate over this is taxed at 40%. Do you really want to give your money to the government? If you haven’t written a Will or consulted a solicitor about IHT planning; if you own your house, if you are considering gifting money to children or have a life insurance policy, you may find that your estate has a large IHT bill to pay on your intestate death.

If you would like to write your Will please contact a member of our private client department on 01722 412000 to find out more.

Our contributor

Bethan Creasey

Trainee Solicitor

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