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Double in numbers of those dying without a Will: Why leaving things to chance can cause difficulties

06 Sep 2016

Musical legends Jimmy Hendrix, James Brown, Bob Marley and Michael Jackson all have one thing in common you wouldn’t expect – they each died without having made a Will. Making a Will is important because it allows you to decide what will happen to your assets after you die. Making a Will is often misconceived as not being necessary, but many problems can be encountered when a Will is not made.

In the UK, worryingly, the number of those dying without a Will has reportedly doubled over the past five years and now over two thirds of British adults do not have a Will.

What will happen to my assets if I die without making a Will?

In the absence of making a Will, if an invalid Will has been made, or, if some action has been taken to inadvertently revoke a previously made Will, the rules of intestacy apply.

Under the rules of intestacy, those who are entitled to inherit the estate are not always the same persons as those the person making the Will intended. Indeed, the most unpalatable outcome of the rules of intestacy applying is that people who the deceased has never known, such as distant relatives, could inherit their estate over loved ones such as partners and friends.

If you die without leaving a Will therefore, some or all of your loved ones could be left without any rights to inherit anything.

Those who would not be entitled to inherit include unmarried partners and partners who have not registered a civil partnership, together with carers, friends or relations by marriage.

There are numerous pitfalls in dying without a Will; most married couples, for example, would desire that their estate is left to one another and believe that if they die without making a Will, everything would pass to the surviving spouse. However, for those who are married with children, there is a cap of £250,000 which can be received by the surviving spouse with the remainder of their assets being split equally into two halves. The spouse or civil partner takes one half and the children (or their children in their absence i.e. their grandchildren) take the other half.

There can also be what is known as a partial intestacy which occurs when someone dies leaving a valid Will but the Will does not dispose of all of their assets. It is always, therefore, best to seek professional advice, rather than leaving these things to chance.

What are the main reasons for people not making Wills?

Even if you are not a famous multi-millionaire artist, if you do choose to make a Will, this can make things easier for your loved ones when the time comes that you are no longer here. So why did each of these famous folks not make a Will even though it is an easy and low-cost process? Reportedly, people are put off making a Will for the following top three reasons which are very much intuitive and based upon feelings such as “it’s never occurred to me to make a Will”, “it’s bad luck”; and “I don’t own anything so it’s not worth making a Will”.

The making of a Will is by no means a morbid process or an unlucky process. It is in fact an exercise to bring peace of mind to a person and their loved ones both in life and in death.

Notably, the price of making a Will is not a common barrier, as legal fees are invariably much lower than most other legal services given the amount of work involved in drafting and advice given behind the scenes. Most people would want their affairs to be in order so that their loved ones, at a very difficult time, can deal with things in the most practicable manner possible.

A Will helps to ensure that your assets are distributed to the persons, organisations or charities of your choice and the process of making a Will can include advice regarding Inheritance Tax planning, for example.

We can assist you with making a Will for the first time, and, if you already have a Will, we can help you to review it. We recommend that Wills are reviewed periodically and upon any major circumstantial change.

To enquire more about the process of making a Will with us, please do not hesitate to contact Alice Clewes, Partner at Hay & Kilner.

Call: 0191 232 8345

Email: Alice.Clewes@hay-kilner.co.uk