There are a number of reasons why you should have a Will in the UK but the main one is to retain an element of control. Irrespective of where you are from, if you have assets in England or Wales it is prudent to make a Will here.

By having a Will in place you will be able to control the following:

1. Who your executors are. They are responsible for figuring out what your assets and liabilities are following your death, preparing the relevant forms for the Inland Revenue, paying any inheritance tax due and drafting the Oath for the Probate Registry (the branch of the Court dealing with deceased estates) in order to obtain a Grant. A Grant is required to pass property out of the name of a deceased person into that of his or her successors.

2. Appoint Guardians to look after any children under the age of 18 you leave behind should you be the surviving parent. If there is no provision in your Will, your children are likely to go into care until a Court decides who is best placed to care for them.

3. You can decide who benefits from your assets and when! You can decide which of your family and friends to benefit, who gets what and you can also ensure these gifts reach them when they become a certain age – you may not want your children to inherit at 18 but choose to delay their gifts till they are a more mature 25 years of age. In the meantime your executors will manage their funds and advance monies when required. If you are in a relationship but are not married to or in a civil partnership with your partner you can protect them as without a Will they will get nothing. There is no such thing as a “common law husband/wife” in the eyes of the law.  Also, you can ensure that your favourite charity receives something when you die to help it continue its good work after you are gone.

4. You can get an idea of your inheritance tax position and how to ensure that more of your hard earned money reaches your intended beneficiaries.  There is a nil rate band (currently £325,000) over which your net assets will be charged inheritance tax at 40%. There are certain exemptions and reliefs depending upon your situation and your beneficiaries.

5. Get advice on how to deal with foreign property to ensure its smooth and timely transfer to your beneficiary/ies.

6. Avoid the intestacy rules which will apply to your estate if you die without a Will in place & will direct how your estate is apportioned (which may not accord with your wishes) between your surviving relatives. If no relatives survive you, your estate will go to the Crown – as hundreds do each year – instead of going to friends or charities you would rather benefit.

7. You can ensure assets are not broken up or divided, a business is not sold unnecessarily and that children from a previous relationship are not forgotten with everything you have going to your current husband/wife, simply by stating your wishes in a Will.

8. You can avoid the uncertainty of those left behind trying to decide who should apply for a Grant and who should benefit, often needing to instruct costly genealogy agents to identify any unknown relatives.

9. You can ensure that funds are held for a vulnerable beneficiary without their benefits being affected.

10. You will be advised on possible claims on your estate and the likely outcome of any litigation by them so that you can prepare and take appropriate action.

Although there are ways of preparing your own Will, without legal advice, this often leads to trouble as it may not be properly drafted or witnessed and so part or all of it may be ineffective.  At Judge Sykes Frixou we usually oversee the signing of your Will to ensure that the likelihood of it being challenged is substantially reduced as we can confirm you had the requisite mental capacity and were not under any pressure from anyone.  You should be aware also that a Will you had before you were married will no longer be effective once you are married, unless it contains special wording.  It is prudent to instruct solicitors to advise you in full knowledge of all your circumstances as the smallest things may have repercussions.  Fear not, just because you list your assets and debts to your solicitor does not mean that these will be mentioned specifically in your Will.  Once you have a Will in place, you should probably review it every 10 years or whenever there is a major change in your life. 

I would be delighted to help you ensure your wishes turn into reality. Please contact me at lcalligas@jsf-law.co.ukor call 020 7379 5114 and ask for Louisa Calligas.

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