By Georgina Rayfield, Apiary Expert
Do I really need a Will, even if I don’t have much to leave to my loved ones?
This is a question that our experts get asked time and time again.
Most of us know that a Will records how you would like your estate to be divided after your death. However, did you know that if you die without making a Will, there are standard rules governing how your money and possessions should be divided? This may well result in your assets being allocated in a way you would not have chosen. Furthermore, your Will can be a vehicle to record other arrangements and preferences, both ensuring that your wishes are followed after your passing and reducing the burden on the loved ones that you leave behind.
It is therefore important for you to make a Will regardless of the value, or potential value, of your estate.
Here we look at the top reasons for making a Will and questions that you will need to consider before doing so.
1. Who do you want to benefit? If you do not make a Will, your estate will be divided according to the intestacy rules. This means that your estate maybe allocated in a manner that you would not necessarily choose.
2. What are your personal circumstances? Beware that, if you are unmarried, there is generally no automatic entitlement for your partner to receive any share of your estate.This means that even if you have been cohabiting (living together) for many decades, your partner may be left in financial difficulty and have to resort to applying to the Court to receive any financial support. By making a Will, you guard against this. In addition, if you are married and have children, your spouse may not be automatically entitled to all your estate which may cause financial issues.
3. Do you have or are you planning a family? If you have minor children (under 18) or are intending to start a family, a Will can record your wishes as to who you would like to care for them if anything were to happen to you. If you die without making a Will, and there is no other person with parental responsibility, the Court will decide who takes care of your children.
As well as recording who should care for your children, your Will can also make arrangements for their financial future. For example, you may wish to set up a trust to direct when and how they receive any inheritance and what it should be used for.
Finally, a Will can also provide for any step or foster children or other dependants, who would not otherwise be recognised as beneficiaries, unless adopted by you.
4. Do you own a house? If you own a property that you live in with others, you may be able to provide an automatic entitlement for them to remain in the property after your passing, either for a defined period, for their lifetime or by leaving the property (or part of the property) to them.
5. Have you got any pets? In your Will, you can appoint a guardian to care for your pet(s). You may also wish to consider allocating the guardian a share of your estate to give them the financial means to feed, care and look after the health needs of your pet.
6. Tax! It may be possible to reduce the Tax that you pay. Inheritance Tax depends not only on what you have, but who you leave it to, and varies from country to country or state to state (in the US), so it is important that you understand your options.
7. Resolving disputes before they arise. Sadly, the allocation of an estate can result in significant disagreements between relatives and be immensely damaging, not only to family relationships but to family finances (due to the cost of contesting a Will). A well drafted Will documenting your intentions ensures that your estate can be divided without creating disputes.
8. Charity. You may wish to leave part of your estate to charity. Without a Will, you lose control as to who your estate will be divided between, and you will not be able to choose a charity to benefit from your estate. .
9. Have your personal circumstances changed? If you have married, divorced, had children or moved in with someone, then make sure that you understand how this might affect your situation. It is important to regularly review your Will and ensure that it still reflects not only your situation but also your wishes.
10. Funeral arrangements. If you have specific ideas about your funeral then you can ensure that these are recorded in your Will so that your family do not have to make these decisions.
If you have any doubts about whether you need to make a Will, then our experts are ready to assist. You can easily arrange a consultation via the portal.
The reasons for not prioritizing your estate planning range from a reluctance to think about one’s mortality, to being young and healthy and thinking you have “plenty of time”, to a belief that your assets are limited and straightforward and that a Will is therefore unnecessary. However, the reality is that every adult, regardless of their age, health, and financial situation should have a basic estate plan.