Category Archives: Wills

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day! Do we hear wedding bells…

At such a romantic time, your Will is hardly likely to be front of mind. However, 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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Protecting your children

Will my stepchildren inherit my assets when I remarry?

A second marriage can be very complicated when it comes to making sure your family inherit exactly what you want them to have.

The first thing to know is that any previous Will you have made becomes invalid when you marry, unless it was specifically made in contemplation of the marriage.

If you and/or your new spouse have children, you both need to sit down and work out what assets you have and who you would like them to be ultimately passed on to.

If you don’t make a Will

When someone dies without making a Will, their estate passes under the Intestacy Rules, which give all personal possessions plus the first £250,000 to the spouse. Any sum over and above £250,000 will be shared, with 50% going to the spouse and 50% shared between any children.

Stepchildren are not included at all. This can mean that if your spouse inherits your estate and then dies without writing a Will, your children would not be entitled to anything.

If you do make a Will

If you make a Will leaving everything to your spouse, with the understanding that they will then leave your children your assets when they die, you have no guarantee that this will actually happen.

As time passes, they may change their mind and decide to leave their estate elsewhere, or they may fall into debt or need funds for care home costs.

The way to avoid this is to have a Will drawn up so that your spouse has a lifetime interest in your property and assets, but on their death the capital passes to your children.

What to do about your Will when you remarry

Because any previous Will becomes void on marriage, you should sit down with your new spouse and decide who you want to inherit. Its particularly important when family situations are complicated, for example with different sets of children and stepchildren, to get expert help in drawing up a Will that includes the necessary trusts.

It is also important that Wills are unambiguous to avoid disputes after someone dies. If possible, you should talk things through with any children and stepchildren so that they understand what your wishes are and what will happen to your estate after you die.

A specialist Trusts and Probate lawyer from legalmatters will be able to put your requirements into a valid Will and this should avoid any arguments arising at a later date.

If writing – or updating – your Will is one of your 2019 New Year’s Resolutions, don’t put it off. Speak to one of our expert lawyers at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Living with someone – they could be entitled to more than you think…

A recent case involving a cohabiting couple has highlighted the need for a robust Will after a man died and the judge awarded his surviving partner more than he intended.

There has been a rise in disputes between family members over inheritance. And a recent case has shown that a cohabiting partner might have a greater claim to your estate than you realise.

What happened in this case?

While the ‘common law’ husband or wife doesn’t actually exist in law, living with someone could entitle them to a substantial proportion of their deceased partner’s estate. Even if this goes against the terms of their partner’s Will.

Mr Hodge and Ms Thompson lived together for over 40 years. However, just before he died, Mr Hodge created a Will leaving nothing to his partner. In a letter he explained that he did this because he believed Ms Thompson would need to move into residential care after his death, and that she had her own finances to cover this cost.

However, Ms Thompson was unhappy with this and contested the Will. Her claim was successful as the judge found that she did not need to move into residential care and could live independently, but did not have the financial means to do so. As such, Ms Thompson was awarded a home worth £225,000, as well as a further £28,800 to pay for adaptions to the cottage, and an additional lump sum of £116,000 to help supplement her limited income.

This isn’t a one-off

In this case, the named beneficiaries will still inherit a sizeable amount as the estate was worth £1.5 million. Furthermore, the fact that Mr Hodge’s reasons for not taking care of his longstanding partner were unfounded contributed to the judge’s decision. But this is not the first time a Will has been overturned in favour of a cohabitee.

Indeed, it is possible for a ‘common law’ partner to bring a claim under the Inheritance Act after just two years of cohabitation if they rely on financial provision from the estate to carry on living the lifestyle they have become used to (however luxurious that lifestyle might be).

So, money and property can be given to someone other than the deceased’s intended beneficiaries.

The death of a loved one is a difficult time, and, where there are disputes about a Will, the stress and upset can make it even harder. As such, taking professional advice is crucial if you want to protect your Will against any potential challenge. With disagreements over money or property devastating for those left behind, and often very expensive to resolve, a properly prepared and considered Will should be a priority.

To make sure your Estate is passed on in line with your wishes, or to dispute a Will, speak to one of our expert team by calling legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Business in a Will

Why, as a business owner, you need a solicitor to write your Will…

When you own a business, not using a professional lawyer to draw up your Will is almost always a mistake.

Failing to cover all your assets and not considering issues around inheritance tax, executors and trusts are two common mistakes made with a DIY Will. But even the smallest of mistakes could render a Will invalid – such as if it’s witnessed by the wrong people or number of people; if it’s not signed or dated in the right place.

Having a valid Will in place is essential if you want the final say in what happens to your business and other assets after you die.

If you die without a Will, or if it’s invalid, everything you own – including business and non-business assets – will be distributed under the laws of intestacy. Which means that you or your loved ones will have no say as to who inherits. To avoid your assets being dealt with under the rules of intestacy, your Will should detail what will happen to your business shares.

Business assets

When you die, any shares or interest you own in a business become an asset of your estate. Without a Will, these shares could be sold, the company could be broken up, or it could run into trouble without the correct day-to-day management in place.

For example, you might know who you want to inherit your business after you die, but what happens if there’s a tragedy and these people don’t survive? A professional solicitor will know what questions to ask to make sure that your Will covers all situations.

Take a look at the package “Business Wealth Protection” which we’ve put together specifically for business owners. We will look at all eventualities and the Will we draft for you will include a trust and letter of wishes to ensure that inheritance tax is handled in the most cost-efficient way.

In some cases, you might already have a partnership agreement or company papers in place that set out what will happen to the business after you die. These types of contracts are usually put in place if more than one person owns a business and you want the company to continue after your death. You should also consider whether you need a business lasting power of attorney. We’ll help you decide what legal documents you need to draw up in order to carry out your wishes and best protect your business and your loved ones.

It is always important when drawing up a Will that it is done correctly, and for business owners this is more complex. We can help guide you through the process. Just speak to one of our expert team by calling legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Professional Will writing

5 good reasons for having your Will drawn up by a Solicitor…

There are many reasons for having your Will drawn up by a Solicitor. Here are 5 of our top reasons.

  1. Top of our list, making your Will is one of the most important things you’ll ever do.

Without a Will, how will you get to say who inherits your assets? For instance, without a Will, and where there are no known heirs, your estate will be passed to the Government. This could include property, money and personal possessions. Where there are relatives, under the UK’s inheritance laws (Rules of Intestacy), people who are blood relatives could be entitled to a share of your estate. Even distant relations could be in for a windfall. And partners may not recognised if you were not married or in a civil partnership. Neither are stepchildren.

  1. The need for clarity

So you’ve sensibly decided to draw up your Will. But if you’re thinking of creating a handwritten Will, then think very carefully about it. There are various legal requirements for a handwritten Will (also known as a ‘holograph’ Will).

For instance, it must be signed by the Testator (the person making the Will) in the presence of two witnesses. These witnesses must also sign the Will in the presence of the Testator. Furthermore, the Testator must understand that in doing this, they are creating a Will. So it needs to be a clear and final expression of intention about where assets should go upon your death.

That’s not always as easy as it sounds…

  1. Mind your language

For the Will to be legal, the correct language and terminology needs to be used. What might seem obvious to you might not be evident in the eyes of the law. And if you do it yourself, you’ll not know that until it’s too late, when the Will gets read, after your death.

Which leads us on to…

  1. Avoiding Disputed Wills

You don’t want your Will to be disputed after you die. But there are some common instances that lead to a Will being challenged:

  • Changing family structures which often include unmarried couples living together and second families
  • An ageing population and the increased risk of mental health and dementia
  • Rising property values resulting in a growing number of estates worth contesting
  • An increase in the number of people leaving money to charities.

A Will can be overruled following a challenge. Whether it is or it is not overturned, such disagreements about inheritance are usually devastating for those left behind, and often very expensive to resolve.

A carefully drafted Will would avoid this heartache…

  1. And finally, that most hated penalty, Inheritance tax

When you make a Will you’ll want to make sure that your beneficiaries don’t pay any more Inheritance Tax than they have to.

There are many ways to limit your liability, but unless you are an expert in this area, your beneficiaries could end up paying the taxman far more than is necessary.

Advice on how to distribute your assets in your Will can make the most of allowances and protect any vulnerable beneficiaries…

Talk to us about your Will. We are experts and can help you through the process. Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Protecting a disabled child

Include a Trust in your Will to protect disabled children

If you have a child with a disability, planning for their future is vital. While it is understandably difficult to imagine a time when you won’t be around to care for your child, you will want to ensure that they are taken care of.

By including a Trust in your Will, you can provide for your disabled child when you are gone.

A Trust is often a better option than just leaving a specified amount in a Will. Especially where:

  • Leaving your child with a large amount of money could put them in a vulnerable position. For example, making them a target of abuse from others
  • Where your child is not able to deal with their own finances
  • Where your child could lose their means-tested benefits.

Of course, you could leave all your money to someone you trust, on the basis that they look after your child. But this option is fraught with difficulties.

Firstly, you never know how someone’s changing situation and finances (e.g. divorce, bankruptcy, etc.) could impact your child. Secondly, if they die, their estate could go directly to their children (or other beneficiaries), leaving your child with nothing.

Establishing a Trust helps to avoid such uncertainties and ring-fences the inheritance earmarked for your disabled child.

Trusts in Wills

When you create a Trust, you can establish in the terms in your Will.

There are different types of Trusts and they each work in different ways. It pays to speak to a solicitor to ensure the right Trust for your circumstances.

Where a disabled child is involved this could be a Disabled Person’s Trust.

Disabled Person’s Trusts

A Disabled Person’s Trust lets you leave some or all of your estate to a beneficiary who is unable to manage the inheritance themselves.

You establish the amount of the Trust and the people you want to manage the inheritance on behalf of the disabled beneficiary. These people are called the Trustees.

You can also leave a Letter of Wishes stating how you would prefer the Trust to be used. This will help the Trustees to carry out their duties as you would want.

A Disabled Person’s Trust does not affect any means-tested benefits, and the money cannot be used to pay off any debt (or be considered an asset in a divorce etc.). Furthermore, your child cannot be coerced into giving away the assets in the Trust or using the money for other purposes.

If you have a disabled child and would like to protect them in your Will, speak to one of our expert team by calling legalmatters on 01243 216900  or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Back To School…

Whether you sent your pride and joy to school for the first time this September, or they’re into their second, third or fourth year, most parents feel a flutter of apprehension when letting go of their hand on the first day.

Doing everything to protect your child comes naturally. From planning a safe route for your kids to get to or from school and ensuring they know the green cross code to protecting them from bullying.

Protection comes in many shapes and forms. At this time of year, once they are safely in school, now is the time to make sure they are protected should something happen to you.

24,000 children a year experience the death of a parent according to charity Winston’s Wish.
Did you know that if both of a child’s parents die and there’s no valid Will and therefore no appointed guardian, children could be put in foster care until the courts decide who they should live with?

Added to which, most of us don’t live in the nuclear family of the past which adds additional complications.

Making a Will allows you to:

  • Decide who will take care of your children should something happen to you
  • Make it known how, and where, your children should be educated
  • Ensure that there won’t be any family disputes or court battles over who takes care of your children
  • Plus, any other wishes you have from what they eat to what they should receive as pocket money….

As parents, we all want the best for our children, and this is probably one of the easiest ways of protecting them. Making a Will also costs less than you may think. To discuss writing a Will speak to one of our expert team at legalmatters by calling 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Mecca – The Journey Of a Lifetime…

September marks the largest gathering of people in the world.

Hajj is an annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for all Muslims. It is considered a once in a lifetime trip, and serves as 1 of the 5 pillars of Islam. Muslims save for, prepare and embark on their travels, with faith that this journey along with 2 million other pilgrims will bring them closer to their beliefs and unite them in worship.

It is specified in the Holy Quran that Muslims must leave a Will in their lifetime, but pays particular reference to Hajj. Historically, before modern transport and medicine, many pilgrims would die on their travels.

To learn more about it, see this article from The Independent.

Biblical economics tell us; It has been said that a person will spend fifty or sixty years accumulating earthly treasure, then spend another 20 years or more trying to keep from losing it, but will not spend two hours planning the distribution of it when he dies.

Hesitation to write a Will runs throughout the ages, with superstition playing a huge role. To discuss writing a Will speak to one of our expert team at legalmatters by calling 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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