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Why make a Will? Some basics

Having a Will makes the administration of your estate run more smoothly from the beginning. When you don’t have a Will your estate is distributed according to the law, the Laws of Intestacy. When you don’t have a Will you have not appointed any executors, so administrators have to be appointed to the task. They may not necessarily be the people you wanted to act for you. The people who could act as your administrators are determined by rules and there is a distinct pecking order. For example, if you were married it would be your surviving wife or husband who has first choice. If you were unmarried with no children, it would be your surviving mother or father. You may note already these rules, although set out in 1987, take no account of unmarried couples or couples not in a civil partnership.

Then we come to the way your estate is distributed under the Laws of Intestacy. Situations may occur that are simply not what you would want.

Let’s look at a married couple where neither person had a Will :

  • Sarah’s husband Ben died overnight from a brain aneurism. They have two young children.

  • Their home was owned as joint tenants with a large mortgage of £500K.

  • Ben had cash and ISAs worth approximately £100K & had taken out life insurance of £500K to cover the mortgage, but not written in trust, and that paid out to his deceased estate.

  • Sarah inherited the home automatically as the joint owner, but then discovered she is only entitled to the first £322K plus £139K (half of Ben’s remaining estate).

  • The remainding £39K must be held in trust for the children until 18 and the mortgage could not be fully cleared as intended.

  • If Ben had made a Will this would not have happened.

Let’s look at an unmarried couple:

  • Tom’s partner Sophie dies from cancer with no Will in place.

  • Their home was worth £500K owned as tenants-in-common with a mortgage of £180K.

  • Sophie had cash of approx £50K but had not taken out life insurance as she had insurance through work. Sadly she gave up work 6 months before she died due to ill health and was then uninsurable.

  • Under the Laws of Intestacy, Sophie's half of the property and all her savings passes to her parents who are alive. Tom now co-owns the property with Sophie's parents. Her parents need to sell their share to pay for care.

  • Tom has effectively lost his life partner and his home.

  • If Sophie had made a Will with Tom as the beneficiary this wouldn't have happened.

An example of single person with no Will:

  • Gary died from heart failure during the pandemic.

  • Gary’s mother whom he looked after for many years, was in a nursing home suffering from dementia. His father had already passed away.

  • Because he owned a property in London when he died his estate was valued at £2.2m. Without a Will under the Laws of Intestacy, his mother automatically inherited his estate after £750K was paid in Inheritance Tax.

  • Gary’s mother passed away within a year before his estate had been finalised and his wealth (after another Inheritance Tax bill of £450K) then passed to his brother who he had not seen for 5 years after a family dispute. The last person on earth he wanted to benefit.

  • If Gary had made a Will this would not have happened.

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