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  • Writer's pictureAnnabel Ashford

Why is it important to have a Will


Why is it so important to have a Will?


A Will is a legal document that protects your wishes and ensures that your estate passes to who you wish when you die. But what happens if you die without a Will?


When a person dies without a Will, their estate is distributed under the Intestacy Rules. These prescribed rules dictate who receives a person’s estate when they die without a Will, and the specific order of entitlement. There are 8 groups of people who can inherit under an intestate estate, and the order cannot be legally altered.


So, who might benefit from my intestate estate?


The first ‘class’ of beneficiary is a spouse or civil partner. It is important to note that this class does not include an un-married partner. If you die and have no children, your spouse or civil partner will inherit all your estate. However, if you do have children, your spouse is entitled to any joint assets, plus the first £322,000 of your estate. This specific amount is known as the ‘statutory legacy’, which increased from £270,000 to £322,000 on 26th July 2023. Any remaining assets over £322,000 are split, 50% to the surviving spouse, and 50% to the children.


The next class of beneficiary is children. If you die without leaving a surviving spouse or civil partner, your children inherit your estate, equally. Should one or more of your children die before you leaving children of their own (your grandchildren), then your grandchildren receive what would have been their parent’s share of your estate had they been alive.

For example, you have never been married (or are a widow) and you have two children, David and Matthew. David has two children, Matthew has none. David sadly dies before you, leaving his two children. Matthew survives you. When you die intestate, your estate is split 50% to Matthew, and 50% to David’s two children equally (25% each).


If you die leaving no surviving descendants and you were not married or in a civil partnership but you leave surviving parents, your estate is split equally between your surviving parents.

If there is no surviving spouse, descendants or parents, any surviving whole-blood brothers and sisters will inherit your estate equally. If they die before you leaving children, their children (your nieces and nephews) inherit what would have been their parent’s share of your estate. There are further classes of beneficiary after your siblings, including half-blood siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins and so on.


Eventually, if there are no surviving blood relatives entitled to your estate, the Crown, the Duchy of Lancashire or the Duke of Cornwall will inherit your estate.


We regularly hear “I don’t need a Will, my family get on and know what I would want” or “my estate will go to my spouse, and if not them then my children”, but all too often we see the consequences of someone dying without a Will and their estate passing to someone who would not have benefitted from the estate if a Will had been prepared. And it is not always as straightforward as this, there are many issues that can be caused by not having a Will, not least that only a blood relative can inherit under the intestacy rules, so there are no provisions for a ‘partner’, regardless of the length of the relationship.


Summary


There are lots of things to consider when deciding how your estate is dealt with when you pass away, but we are here to provide the legal advice you require to ensure your assets and wishes are protected. That said, preparing a Will, with a solicitor, does not take as long as you might imagine. We have an initial meeting to take your instructions and discuss your wishes and options. A draft Will is prepared, and once you are happy with the Will, we arrange for you to sign your Will. Your Will is then stored securely and you can rest assured that your wishes in relation to your estate are dealt with, should the worst happen.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you require our assistance. We have an excellent private client department, across all our three offices, who are here to help you to ensure your wishes are protected and your estate is in order.


For further information, or to arrange an appointment to discuss your Will, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. Our Ripon office can be contacted on 01765 601717, our Thirsk office can be contacted on 01845 522324 or our Bedale office on 01677 422422.


Author: Annabel Ashford (Apprentice Solicitor) - visit Anabel's profile to learn more about her.




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