making a will

5 Myths about Making a Will Explained

Today marks the start of Will Aid month, so we’d thought we’d help raise awareness by explaining a few legal myths.
 
My spouse will get everything if I die
Your spouse or civil partner is only entitled to inherit your entire estate if there are no other living blood relatives. If you have children – your spouse will inherit the first £250,000 of your estate and retain life interest in half of anything that exceeds this, the remaining half will be divided between your children. If you don’t have any children your spouse inherits the first £450,000 and the same rules apply to parents, siblings, nieces and nephews. 
 
If I live with someone, they’re my ‘common law’ spouse so will be entitled to inherit my estate
Common law doesn’t exist when it comes to inheritance law. Partners who live together have no rights, cannot inherit and cannot act as personal representative. If you are not married and have children, your estate will be equally divided between them. The worst scenario is if you are still married to your ex-partner, he or she will inherit the first £250,000, the remainder will be split between your children. 
 
My children will automatically inherit my estate
Only if you are not married. This can leave children in a vulnerable position. For example, say you have children from a first marriage – your current spouse will inherit your entire estate, including chattels if valued at less than £250,000. Worse than this – if your spouse remarries, in the event of their deaths, the wealth could be passed to the family of your spouse’s new partner. 
 
You can change intestacy so what’s the point in making a will
Yes, you can change intestacy law with a document called a Deed of Variation. The problem with this is that to do so, everyone affected must agree. Plus, if beneficiaries are children under 18, they cannot legally give their consent and the Courts must give their approval, making it very costly.
 
Drawing up a will is really expensive
This is not the case. Many people have visions of a solicitor painstakingly drafting the document with a quill and ink, while the clock is ticking…thus costing hundreds of pounds. These days, you can quickly and easier make a will online. Of course, if your situation is complex and you have many assets this is not recommended so will inevitably cost more. See our pricing guide and find out the cost of making a will.

Why consider probate fees when making your will

When you make a will, one of most important decisions you’ll make is who to appoint as executor. There are many factors that may affect your choice, the person’s age, where they live, and their relationship to you. You also have the option to appoint a professional who will take care of probate and relieve close family of the burden. It’s sometimes wise to use a solicitor if there are feuds in the family and there is a chance that disputes may occur.
 
If you don’t have any strong preferences, make sure you know exactly who the executor/s named in your will are. If you are considering allocating the task to a professional, you’ll need to be aware of the implications in doing so.
 
The will writing and probate industry is not regulated and even the most reputable high street banks are guilty of using unscrupulous practices in the pursuit of profit. A common ploy is for companies to offer cheap will writing as a loss leader, write themselves in as executor and charge extortionate probate fees. This can be as much as 4.5% of the estate value to wind up an estate.
 
Some firms say it’s compulsory, and pressurise or use hard-sales tactics to get testers to agree to write them in as executor. There have been many widely publicised cases of unwanted executors who refuse to renounce their positions when confronted by relatives about their rip-off fees. The law states that they are not required to do so and the family has no choice but to watch a large portion of the estate get swallowed up in legal fees.
 
If you are considering using a professional, protect your family by finding out exactly how much they charge for probate. The Law Society states that practitioners must give an indication of the costs of carrying out the administration of the estate.   They must also inform clients how fees are calculated; whether that’s at an hourly rate, or by a percentage of the estate.
 
If the firm tries to use the ‘how long is a piece of string argument,’ press them for an answer. To protect yourself, use a company that offers a fixed fee service so you’ll have a clearer indication of costs.

Bought your first house – make a Will!

Now you have bought your first home, you have substantial assets which need to be protected if the worst happens.
 
Just think – if you die tomorrow and haven’t made a Will, not only will the government request a significant percentage of the value of the property as Inheritance Tax payment, but it will also dictate who will benefit from your final intestate, as part of the intestacy process.
 
You will have no say whatsoever in what happens to your money and property after you die, even if you only co-own the property.
 
To ensure that your loved ones will be well taken care of after you’ve gone and that those who should benefit from your estate do so, simply take a couple of hours this week to have a Will professionally prepared for you. This will put your mind at rest, knowing that the home you have worked hard to buy will be safe, even after you’ve gone.

Seek Help with DIY or Online Wills

A lady wrote into a national newspaper recently saying that her husband had purchased a DIY Will from a newsagent.  When making a will, he left the family home to all five of his grandchildren once they reached the age of 25.

On the face of it, this seemed to be a fair and straightforward instruction.  However, as the legal advisor rightly pointed out, this would in fact mean that the Executors of the Will would then need to look after the interests of the home until the first grandchild reached 25.  This could mean that if the Executors decided to sell the home to make it a cash asset rather than a property inheritance, the gentleman’s wife may be forced to move out.

This is an excellent example of why, although buying cheap online wills or templates and writing it yourself may seem like a great idea, you should always seek legal advice when preparing it to ensure that you have avoided the numerous legal pitfalls and remembered to include everything.

Remember too that a professional Will writer should also be able, whilst preparing the document, to advise you on making decisions which will benefit your next of kin in the best way possible, including planning your Estate specifically to minimise the amount of Inheritance Tax which will fall due.

Making a Will – DIY Wills Cause Confusion

A case whereby a man appeared to sign a new, handwritten Will on his deathbed continues to cause debate and indecision, eight years on.

Martin Lavin signed an initial Will in 2002, a fact which was concealed from the court by his niece, who had been a legal secretary.  For reasons unknown, he was said to have signed another Will, prepared by his niece Hanora Bem, only hours before his actual death – a Will which left most of his Estate to his sister, Anne Liston, Hanora’s  mother.

Mrs Liston unfortunately died only a few months later – leaving behind a case which has been dragged through the courts ever since by Ms Bem and Mr Lavin’s other nephew.

This case has come before the courts four times, with the Will declared invalid then valid then invalid again.

Why?  Because although those present at the time of the signing swore that Mr Lavin had signed the document himself (whether or not he was of sound mind at the time is also up for debate), later evidence and testimony revealed that Mrs Liston had in fact “helped” her brother to sign it as he was so weak.

All the more reason then, to ensure that you have your Will formally prepared right now and not only file a copy but circulate copies around any beneficiaries that you have mentioned.

In the meantime, legislation is being presented to try and prevent last minute, making a will from being legally recognised.
 

How to Prevent Probate Fraud and Will Forgery

An interesting, yet sickening case has been highlighted, whereby a woman has been charged with forgery, after inventing a Will after her partner was found dead at his home.

After finding her partner dead, Karen Phillips went on to forge a Will before notifying the deceased’s family and indicating that he had written a Will prior to his death – a Will in which it is claimed that she was to be the sole beneficiary of his Estate, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Unfortunately for the accused, the Will was obviously full of errors which raised the suspicions of the deceased’s family members during probate. They then went on to contact the police.

It is unfortunate that the man in question, particularly being the owner of a business, had not had a Will professionally prepared and several copies distributed to its principal beneficiaries and family members, before he died.

Although he was only in his forties, and so no doubt felt that he was in the prime of his life, making a will would have removed any doubt about what should happen and how his Estate should be distributed, thus preventing any probate fraud from taking place.

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