by Lucie Scott, Solicitor, Dickinson Dees LLP
Having a will is key if you want to control the ultimate destination of your estate.
However, in 2008, just 44% of people who died in the UK had left a will. This means a staggering 56% of people that died in the UK died “intestate” - without leaving a will. Unfortunately, this leaves their estates open to confusion and also subject to the government’s default intestacy rules.
These rules decide what happens to estates that haven’t been catered for in a Will, and they divide up and allocate parts of someone’s assets regardless of their intentions and their situation at the time of their death. In many cases, these rules put in place provisions that the deceased could have been extremely unhappy with.
For example, some legators have no obvious heirs and although every effort is made to track down heirs to the deceased’s estate, there are many occasions where they are unsuccessful so their estate passes to the Crown.
These default measures can be appealed against, but the claims process can take months or even years during complex cases, creating additional pressures at a time when families and friends are already under duress.
However, many people feel that leaving a will is a costly enterprise - both in terms of time and money - because it requires legal expertise, and in the current economic climate people are increasingly looking for ways to save money. DIY will packs or internet wills are cheap, and seem particularly attractive to many, but if you don’t fully understand the law surrounding your legacy you may expose your will to challenges after you die.
Any mistakes are unlikely to reveal themselves until after your death, when it will be too late for you to correct them. So while you saved the cost of having your will drawn up by a professional, the consequences could be a loss to your loved ones of tens of thousands of pounds!
A solicitor specialising in wills and probate can guide you through the various pitfalls and explain the options most suitable to your circumstances. Such solicitors train for many years and they can ensure that your will protects your assets from inheritance tax and other potential obstacles.
Many of us will have specific charitable causes that we like to support, and while we may give to these causes throughout our lifetimes, we can also provide for them after we have gone. Many charities refer to these gifts as legacies or charitable bequests.
As gifts to charities are exempt from inheritance tax, this can be a particularly tax-efficient way to not only benefit the causes you care for, but will also reduce the amount of inheritance tax payable after your death, which also helps your other beneficiaries.
A well-drafted Will is a valuable investment for you and your loved ones.
This article was originally published on search4solicitors.com.