Category Archives: Wills

Going on holiday

Making a Will before you go on holiday

While no-one really wants another task to do before they go away on holiday, it really is a good idea to make sure you have a valid Will in place before you travel.

Taking a trip will always involve a small risk, and many people take out insurance just in case something happens. Think of a Will in the same way; it probably won’t be needed, but once you have it in place, you can forget about it and enjoy your break.

Increased risk level on holiday

When we’re away, we often try activities we wouldn’t at home, and they may well be things we’re not proficient at. While there is rarely a problem, very occasionally things can go wrong.

Some countries have lower road safety levels than the UK, meaning a higher risk of an accident while travelling. Some places face regular natural disasters such as flooding, subsidence, earthquakes or tsunamis.

There are diseases in some countries that can on occasion be fatal or a risk of injury or poisoning from the local wildlife, and medical care might be of a lower standard than you would wish.

While these are not common occurrences, insurance companies understand that the risks do exist. It makes sense to put a Will in place, in the same way that we might arrange an insurance policy.

Why you should make sure you have a Will

If you die intestate, ie. without a valid Will in place, your money and assets such as your home and personal possessions will pass under the Rules of Intestacy, to particular members of your family. You may have wished to leave your money elsewhere, or in different proportions, but without a Will, no-one will be able to carry out your wishes.

You can also include requests about your funeral, what should happen if you die overseas and details regarding care of any minor children if you have them. This can cover not only who you would like to become their legal guardian, but also financial provision.

It is always a good idea to have a Will in place, even if you aren’t planning any travelling. This applies to every age group, not just older generations. If you have any assets, then it makes sense to make your wishes clear, so that they can go to those you choose.

While no-one enjoys thinking about writing their Will, once it is in place there is usually a sense of relief, knowing that your wishes have been recorded and will be carried out should anything happen to you. In the meantime you are free to relax and enjoy life, including any trips you have planned.

If you would like to talk to someone about writing your Will, speak to one of our team at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Pets in your Will

Making sure your pets are cared for after your death…

There are an estimated 51 million pets in the UK, but only a small proportion of them are mentioned in their owner’s Will.

In England and Wales, pets are considered to be the property of their owners and as such, can be left to someone in a Will.

The RSPCA estimate that there are 12 million pet-owning households in the UK, with 26 percent of us owning a dog and 18 percent a cat.

What happens to your pet when you die

If you haven’t made specific mention of your pet in your Will, then he or she will pass to the person receiving your personal possessions. This could mean that your pet ends up with someone who doesn’t want them or who is unable to care for them.

Planning for your pet after your death

Ideally you should think about who you want to care for your pet at the same time that you make your Will.

Talk to the person you have chosen and make sure that they are completely happy to take on the animal, bird or reptile. Then make sure that your wishes are clearly communicated in your Will and also to your friends and family.

How to look after your pet in your Will

If you’ve found someone to take care of your pet, name them in your Will and specify which pet they are to receive or, if they are agreeable, you can include any future pet.

You can also leave them money to cover vets bills and other expenses. This can be by way of a cash gift, contingent upon them accepting the pet, or by way of a trust. Leaving the money to them in trust, with them as trustee, means they can avoid losing any state benefits they may be receiving, which might be in jeopardy if they were to receive a lump sum of cash. You can specify what is to happen to the remainder of any trust money once your pet dies.

Consider leaving a ‘letter of wishes’ alongside your Will, setting out how you would like your pet to be cared for. While this will not be legally binding, it will help the person taking on the pet to know what your wishes are.

How animal charities can help

Some charities offer a pre-need registration service. You can contact them to discuss how you would like them to help your pet after your death.

The RSPCA, Blue Cross and Cats Protection are charities which take in pets without owners. If you do make arrangements with a charity, make sure this is specified in your Will so that your executor knows exactly what your wishes are.

To speak to someone about writing your Will, call one of our specialist team at legalmatters, on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Are there any restrictions as to who can make a Will?

There are certain restrictions as to who can make a Will, including age and capacity.

In England and Wales you generally need to be 18 before you can make a Will. It is always advisable to make a Will once you reach that age, even if you feel you might not have anything much to leave.

You can include your wishes for social media accounts as well as leave gifts of items other than cash which you may want friends or family members to receive from you.

If you own your own home or are involved in a business you should make sure you have a Will.

Those under 18 may be allowed to make a Will if they are in the armed forces on active duty or they are sailors at sea. A law introduced during the First World War allows young people in these circumstances to make a Privileged Will allowing them to leave their possessions as they wish.

Other restrictions on making a Will

You are required to have ‘testamentary capacity’ to make a Will. This means that you must fully understand the nature of the document and its effect.

You also need to know the extent of the property you own.

Finally, you need to be able to understand the moral obligations you should consider, for example whether you have any dependents who are more in need of financial help than others, through illness or incapacity or because they themselves have dependents.

When should you make a Will?

You should make a Will straight away if you don’t already have one, and plan to review it regularly, particularly as life changes.

You may want to have your Will rewritten on the arrival of children or grandchildren or if you get divorced.

If you marry, any Will you have will become invalid and you will need a new one or your estate would pass under the Rules of Intestacy.

If you own a business or are in a partnership you should have a Will drawn up taking this into account.

If you are co-habiting then making a Will ensures that you can leave that person something if you wish. If you die without making provision for them, it is possible they will receive nothing.

A recent survey found that three-quarters of adults questioned did not have a Will. Whatever your circumstances, if you clearly set out your wishes it not only means that the administration process will be easier for people, but you can be assured that your beneficiaries will receive exactly what you want them to have.

To speak to someone about writing your Will, call one of our specialist team at legalmatters, on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Is there a time limit for claiming a share of an inheritance?

If you believe you are entitled to something from someone’s Will, you may be able to make a claim, but beware of the time limits.

If a relative dies and you have not inherited what you feel you have a right to, you may be able to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (the Act).

It may be that you believe you were left less than you are entitled to, that you have been left nothing or that because there is no Will you have not been made a beneficiary.

If you can show that you are entitled to ‘reasonable financial provision’ then you can ask the court to grant you a share of the estate.

How long do you have to make a claim?

The Act has a strict time limit for making a claim of six months from the date of the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration.

In very exceptional circumstances this may be extended to allow a late claim, but as a rule you must stick to the six month deadline.

Who is entitled to claim?

A spouse or civil partner may make a claim under the Act as well as a former spouse or civil partner where they have not remarried, a person living in the same household as the deceased for at least two years prior to the date of death, a child of the deceased, anyone who was treated as a child of the family such as stepchildren and anyone who was being financially maintained by the deceased.

What will the court consider?

The court will look at the applicant’s financial resources and needs as well as their future needs. This could include whether they are employed, able to work, whether they have a dependent family or are a carer.

The physical and mental capacity of the applicant will be considered at along with the obligations the deceased may have had to them.

The financial resources and needs of the beneficiaries under the Will is also taken into account together with the size of the estate.

Other factors such as the applicant’s behaviour towards the deceased will also carry weight.

The court will not simply ignore the wishes of the deceased, so it is important to put together as persuasive a case as possible.

It is also essential not to miss the six-month deadline for making the claim.

If you would like to speak to our expert probate team, ring us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Partner's assets

A quarter of people don’t have details of their partner’s assets…

Research carried out by Direct Line Group has found that 25% of people who are married or co-habiting don’t know where their partner’s money is.

This could cause problems in the event that someone dies. If the extent and whereabouts of their assets isn’t known, the administration of their estate could be delayed for a long period of time while searches and enquiries are made. In the worst case scenario, money could simply be lost.

32% of those questioned did not have any details of their partner’s workplace pension and 28% had not shared details of their savings account.

Women share fewer details than men and were found to be five times more likely to keep secret savings.

A study by GoCompare found that on average secret savings amounted to just over £10,000, with a fifth having more than £25,000.

What happens when details of assets aren’t shared

An estimated £2 billion exists in unclaimed bank accounts, with many billions more believed to be in lost pensions, life assurance policies and other investments such as shares.

If assets can’t easily be located after death, there is a risk they will be lost. Executors will need to conduct searches to try and locate what they can, but unless there is a clear list of all holdings, some may well be missed.

How to ensure assets can be located after death

If you don’t want to give your partner details of your financial affairs you can draw up a list of your assets to be placed with your Will and stored by your solicitor at their offices.

This should include the names and account numbers of your holdings and you should aim to regularly update the list.

If you have bank or building society accounts that aren’t used, then remember to check them from time to time. Banks may archive the account after a number of years if you don’t respond to enquiries by them and an unattended account may fall prey to hackers.

As banks and building societies merge or are taken over, it is easy for accounts to be forgotten. Old pension accounts can also be overlooked as people move on to new jobs.

Make an inventory of your financial affairs and ensure that you are in control of your money and aware of its location.

Check that your Will is up to date and reflects your wishes. Let those close to you know where your Will is stored or keep a letter from your solicitor confirming that they have the Will with your personal papers.

To find out how we can help, call one of our experts at legalmatters. Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Cutting someone out of your Will

Disinheritance: how to cut someone out of your Will…

Disinheritance isn’t a decision taken lightly. If you intend not to leave your estate to your children or dependents, it’s essential to act now to draft a will that leaves no room for dispute.

How are estates usually divided up?

The usual division of a person’s estate is that assets would be shared between a spouse, children and other direct relations. The rise in blended families is creating a lot of grey areas in this area.

Consideration should be given to former spouses and step-children, who may be compelled, and legally permitted to challenge any exclusion.

What’s the legal standpoint?

The law is pretty clear that excluded dependants have a right to claim. The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 states that a spouse, former spouse, child or any other dependant can apply to the courts to intervene if they believe their loved one’s estate doesn’t make reasonable provision for them. Factors affecting court decisions include the current financial position of the person appealing and the impact on other beneficiaries.

How to ensure your disinheritance isn’t challenged?

Family relationships are complex. If you’ve decided disinheritance is right for you, there are ways to protect your legacy from a future challenge.

For blended families, consider what’s right and fair. Think about obligations to children from previous relationships, your former partner but also your current family set-up and any people who depend on you financially there.

Ensure your solicitor keeps attendance and discussion notes throughout your meetings. And, document your reasons for cutting your child out of your Will, evidencing that you have considered them but made the active choice to disinherit them. Your solicitor will keep these records, to be cited in the event of a claim on the estate.

A doctor’s assessment and signatory may be worth considering, if the person writing the Will lacks capacity to make decisions. For example, if there are mental health issues, the person is elderly or medicated, the Will could be challenged.

Many people choose to provide a token gesture to a family member they’re disinheriting, drafting legal agreements that prevent or deter them from making a claim. Others prefer to set up trusts.

However, the courts do have the power to call these funds back into your estate if they suspect nefarious reasons for doing so. Specialist legal advice is required in such circumstances.

To ensure your Will is respected, call one of our specialist team at legalmatters, on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Single parent/Will

The importance of a Will when you’re a single parent…

It might be the last thing you want to think about as a single parent, but making sure you have a valid Will is essential. This is the document that will ensure your children will be looked after in the way you choose.

Failing to make a Will means that your children could be subjected to additional turmoil right when they need things to be as settled as possible. Issues such as who they will live with, who will inherit your money and possessions, at what age your children will inherit and who will look after the money until then could all be subject to dispute.

Writing a Will allows you to clearly set out your wishes for your children for the future.

Guardians

Deciding who you want to look after your children is important, especially if you have sole custody. Discuss the matter with those whom you are choosing to ensure they are happy to take on the role.

As well as appointing your first choice, you should also choose backups as well, in case your initial choice is unable or unwilling to act if and when the time comes.

By thinking about this now, you avoid the risk that your children will end up with someone whom you wouldn’t have chosen, or even in foster care.

Inheritance

Making a Will allows you to leave all of your money and possessions to whoever you want. If you fail to do so, your estate will pass under the rules of intestacy.

This could mean that if you are still married your ex will inherit your personal possessions along with the first £250,000 of your estate, plus 50% of the remainder.

If you wish to leave everything to your children, your Will needs to specify this. Your solicitor will also be able to advise how to pass your share of your home on to your children.

Trustees

This section of the Will allows you to choose who you would like to look after the money until your children are old enough to inherit.

They will have the responsibility of approving payments for the children’s day to day living costs, education and larger items that they may ask for as they grow older, such as a car or payment for accommodation.

Age of inheritance

Your Will can stipulate at what age your children can inherit their share of your estate. You may well feel that 18 is too young for them to be handed what may be a large sum of money, so you can choose to leave it until they are older, for example 25.

To speak to someone about writing your Will, call one of our specialist team at legalmatters, on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Happy Valentine's Day

Do we hear wedding bells…

If you’re thinking of getting married, or entering into a civil partnership, you should commit to review your Will either before or immediately after your marriage. Why? To avoid – in the event of your death – your estate being divided under the rules of intestacy!

In England and Wales, your existing Will is automatically revoked when you get married or enter into a civil partnership. So it is vital to review, and if necessary, update your Will after marriage. That is unless your Will makes specific reference to your intended marriage (“in contemplation of marriage”). Take this important step to protect your family and your estate so that the law doesn’t get to dictate who will inherit your money, property and possessions when you die.

What do the rules say?

A person who dies without a valid Will is said to die ‘intestate’. Under the rules of intestacy:

  • If you are married and your estate is worth less than £250k, your spouse will inherit everything, even if you have children
  • If you are married with children (not including stepchildren), and your estate is worth more than £250k, your spouse will inherit the first £250k plus personal belongings. Anything remaining is then split 50/50 between your spouse and your children. Your children will all inherit an equal share of this remaining 50%.

What about divorce?

While getting married automatically invalidates a Will, getting a divorce does not. But, if you end a marriage or civil partnership, your Will carries on as if your spouse has died. This means that they will not receive anything you have left to them in your Will, unless you expressly state that you still want this to happen. Likewise, if they are listed as an executor, they will no longer fulfil this role.

Getting remarried

If you are planning to remarry following a divorce, the effect of your new marriage on your Will is the same as if you were marrying for the first time. So, any Will becomes invalid as soon as your marriage takes place.

It is important to update a Will following marriage. But where second families are involved, the potential for dispute increases, so it becomes even more crucial.

The birth of children and grandchildren should also instigate a Will review, as well as the death of any beneficiaries. Changes to your finances, fluctuations in property values, tax amendments and a whole range of other factors could also mean that your carefully drafted Will no longer reflects your situation and wishes. This is why experts agree that, as well as reviewing your Will after any significant life event, it’s also worth doing every five years.

Drawing up a Will is not a one-time task. Speak to one of our expert team at legalmatters by calling 01243 216900 or email info@legalmatters.co.uk to ensure your Will is updated, and your wealth is passed on in line with your wishes.

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Beneficiaries to a Will

When beneficiaries to a Will can’t be identified…

A surprising number of difficulties and disputes arise when the beneficiaries to a Will can’t be identified easily.

Although it may be clear when a Will is drawn up who the writer intends to leave their assets to, as time goes by beneficiaries may change their names, often more than once, and/or move away.

Often, a long period of time elapses between the writing of a Will and the administration of the estate. If a Will doesn’t make absolutely clear who is to inherit, it can cause numerous problems for the executor or administrator when they have to find and identify everyone named.

Why you need to do more than just name your beneficiaries

If your Will simply names a beneficiary without any further identifying information, then over the years it can be hard to trace the person intended.

Women in particular may change their names several times throughout their lifetime on marriage, divorce and remarriage.

To help the person who will eventually administer the estate, it is a good idea to include other identifying information, such as address, date of birth and the beneficiary’s relationship to you.

A note containing new addresses can also be put with the Will to make contacting people easier. Beneficiaries will also need to provide the executor with relevant evidence of any change of name, such as a marriage certificate or deed poll.

Why attention to detail in a Will is essential

It is also important to make sure that everyone’s name is correctly spelled in a Will. While an incorrect spelling does not invalidate a gift, it can cause difficulties for the executor and even lead to disputes.

Again, by putting in other identifying information, it will be easier for the executor to be clear exactly what your intentions were.

A professional lawyer will be able to write a Will for you that is clear and unambiguous, with all of your beneficiaries accurately identified. This can avoid expensive and damaging disputes and make sure your intentions are carried out.

To speak to one of our experts about having your Will drafted, ring us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Using Trusts in Wills

The different uses of trusts within Wills…

Using your Will to set up a trust allows you to set out exactly who you want to benefit from your assets and protect your money from being spent where you wouldn’t want.

When leaving money or property in a Will, there is sometimes a risk that it may not end up where you meant it to be.

For example, a jointly owned property left to your spouse may be at risk of being sold to pay for care home fees, or money may be left to someone who at present is not in a position to use it wisely.

Setting up a Will trust allows you to dictate in detail who gets what, and when.

Protecting your share of a house

You may well want your spouse or partner to be able to continue to live in your shared home for as long as they want, but if they simply inherit it, then should they need to move to a care home, the whole value of the house will count as their own. This would then be taken into account when assessing their entitlement to help with fees.

Your solicitor will be able to draw up a Will allowing you to leave your share of your home to your children or other beneficiaries, but with your spouse or partner still able to live there as long as they wish. This means that your share of the house will ultimately pass to your children or other beneficiaries.

Passing your home to your children

Similarly, if you’ve remarried during your life, you may want your new spouse to have the benefit of your shared home for the rest of their life, but after that you want it to pass to your children.

A trust in your Will can make this possible, preventing the possibility that your share in your home be left by your spouse to someone other than your children.

Leaving a gift in trust

Setting up a trust allows you to leave money to someone under 18, to a person who is not able to manage their own affairs or to a recipient of state benefits, which might be withdrawn if they were to inherit a large cash sum.

Trustees will be in charge of the money, giving it to the beneficiary in accordance with your wishes, for example for living expenses or continuing education.

Leaving a life interest in assets

You can set up a trust via your Will so that a person receives income from the assets in your estate, but when they die, the capital is passed to the beneficiary of your choice. This allows someone’s funds to live on but prevents them from leaving the main capital under the terms of their Will.

Ask one of our specialist team at legalmatters to help you draw up the Will that allows you to leave your assets exactly as you wish. Call us to discuss your Will on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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