Whilst far from the most joyous of topics to be discussed, I always come across various situations that highlight the importance of having made a Will. Not only in ‘real life’ in my work but the ITV drama Finding Alice, if you have watched that, has highlighted (albeit perhaps a far-fetched scenario) of the mess that can transpire having not made a Will or your affairs in order: I say farfetched with regard to dramatisation, but unfortunately the core issues are ones that we as solicitors do regularly see.
So I ask ‘Is it ok to not have a Will?’. Well, the honest answer in very limited circumstances you may get away with it. If you do not have a Will then the intestacy provisions apply which are where the law says what goes where based on your family tree.
You of course must know exactly how these intestacy rules play out to know if you will be ok and I suspect most people will quite understandably not have this knowledge of the law. You may of course get lucky and find the intestacy provisions fit your circumstances but at the end of the day that will only be suitable for a small minority. You really need to get legal advice to find out what will go where when it comes to dealing with your Estate and I think on the balance of that you will decide to make a Will as it is something not worth taking chances with. I mean who wants to see if they can ‘get away with it’ especially when solicitors can make, making a Will a hassle-free process.
I thought I would highlight the biggest danger areas where alarm bells ring for me when I think it is not ok to not have a Will. These are my ‘Top 5’ to keep things concise but believe me there are many, many more alarm bells that ring!
Alarm bell #1: Unmarried partners
A partner who you are not married to will not inherit any assets held in your sole name; they are simply not included in the intestacy rules no matter how long you have been together for.
Alarm bell #2: Married with children with an Estate over £270,000
Even if you are married with children your spouse is only automatically entitled to the first £270,000 of your Estate – they will not ‘just get it all’; anything over than this is split into shares with your children under the intestacy rules.
Alarm bell #3: Children
Your children will automatically be entitled to inherit your Estate at the age of 18 under the intestacy rules; I find the majority of people would want to put the age of inheritance a little higher.
Alarm bell#4: Stepchildren
The intestacy rules still follow the ‘blood line’; if you have stepchildren, they would not inherit under your Estate.
Alarm bell #5: Estranged family members
The intestacy rules do know if you have an estranged child or family member that you would not want to inherit anything from you, they would just get it because the intestacy rules say so.
In all these scenarios I really do not think you will be ok to not have a Will. In fact, it is vital that you do make one. Additionally, not having a Will can cause difficulties in the administering your Estate as Executors named in a Will get their authority to act sooner and it can make the administering process so much easier and this applies to everyone despite how the intestacy rules play out.
In any scenario you really do not want to see if you can get away with it, or even just be ok; you want to have done everything you can to try and ensure what you want to happen with your Estate actually happens. The bottom line is a Will really can be one of the most important documents you could ever make.
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