"Last year, £8m went to the government because people died intestate...It is estimated that by 2018 the government will receive nearly £6bn from inheritance tax" - The Law Society
There are more ways than ever before to have a lasting and positive impression on our love ones. DeadSocial helps us think about and put suitable arrangements in place to ensure that this occurs in the digital realm. There is also more a formal legal document required to leave everything else in order, namely a Will. A Will should cover all of your assets be they valuable or not so valuable. And remember it is often the possessions that have little or no monetary value that can cause conflict when a loved one dies. It is therefore paramount that all our assets are taken into consideration when writing a will.
Why have a Will?
Making a Will is a way of showing that you really care about whoever is left behind and that you have done your best to leave your property and finances in the most thoughtful way possible.
Whether or not you leave a Will is going to have a significant impact on how you are remembered - were you someone took time and care to ensure your loved ones were provided for after your death, or were someone who just left everything to chance and hoped it would all be alright?
The Digital Death Report 2014 found that nearly two thirds of adults may not have a valid Will. That's two thirds of adults who have decided (or are unaware) that they currently have no say what so ever in what happens to their hard earned cash and assets after they die.
What happens if you die and have not written a Will?
If you die without a valid Will there the law dictates what happens to your assets. These are called the "Intestacy Rules". If you are lucky the Intestacy Rules will coincide with what you would like to happen anyway. But for many that will not be the case.
For instance the Intestacy Rules state that a surviving spouse or civil partner may keep the first £250,000.00 and defined personal effects. The rest is split between the spouse/civil partner and children. The children concerned would become entitled at age 18 if they we're under that age at the time of the death.
Common sense dictates that 18 may not be a good age for a young person to become entitled to a lump-sum of cash. If you make a Will you can specify the age that your children would inherit (say 25 with provision for some money to be advance before that for education and maintenance) and you can appoint guardians to look after your children.
There are also plenty of situations where the Intestacy Rules just don't work at all. Cohabiting or unmarried couples are not recognised and neither are step-children. Or what if you have a disabled or vulnerable relative you want to provide for?
By making a Will you help forge a structure to protect your loved ones and help cement a legacy that is legally binding.
So when should I make a Will?
In theory everyone over the age of 18 should write a will. However there are many life events which act like a trigger when thinking about and making a Will. These include:
- Buying a house
- Having children
- Getting married
- Getting unmarried
- Inheriting assets
- A change in circumstances for an intended beneficiary (eg divorce of bankruptcy)
Areas often overlooked
· Your Will should remain under review. Revisit it at least every five years or each time a change in circumstance (as shown above) occurs.
· Making a Will can help with Inheritance Tax Planning in relation to business succession.
· A Will can enable you to make Charitable Gifts (which can also help reduce the amount of tax paid by your beneficiaries) and set out arrangements for your pets and funeral wishes.
Who can draw up a Will?
You do not need to go to a solicitor to draw up a will and there are a range of offline and online Will Writing Services. However, your Will is one of the most important legal documents you will ever sign so it is vital to get it right.
The Law Society recommends using the expertise of a qualified solicitor. You may also prefer a face to face interview (which shouldn't take more than an hour) to get all the details correct and raise issues you may not have thought of yourself. Once the interview is concluded the solicitor will draw up the will in accordance with your wishes.
Solicitors will provide you with a fee quote before you engage their services and they are regulated and insured. This means as a consumer you have a means of redress and compensation if the service you receive is of an unacceptable level.
Wills and Inheritance schemeThe Law Society is the professional body which represents solicitors and has an accreditation scheme for law firms specialising in Wills and Inheritance matters. Their Wills & Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS) logo as member firms must adhere to protocol with client service at its core.
The content above was written by Gary F. Rycroft, a Partner with Joseph A. Jones & Co Solicitors in Lancaster and a member of the The Law Society Wills & Equity Committee.
- The Law Society http://www.lawsociety.org.uk
- Writing a Will in the UK Guide: http://www.which.co.uk/money/retirement/guides/writing-a-will/
- Writing a Will in the USA Guide: http://www.usa.gov/topics/money/personal-finance/wills.shtml
'Do it yourself Will' (DIY Will)
There are a range of online templates and tools that may help you write your will without the assistance of a solicitor. If you do decide to carryout this task by yourself you can still have a solicitor review the document once completed. This should cost you around £50 / $100. They may increase if you ask them to make corrections.
Before you write you will you may find it of use to read our 'Securely Storing your Last Will & Testament' tutorial by clicking here
Writing a social media will
"People should leave clear instructions about what should happen to their social media, computer games and other online accounts after their death" - The Law Society, 2014
The internet has changed the way in which we communicate and behave. Our thinking around end of life planning now also has to change.
Writing an Advance Care Plan
Advance Care Plans are directions and future decisions about future care. They are often written when healthy and take effect when we lose capacity of our body or mind. To download a free Advance Care Plan template and complete click here