We all know that Wills are important but we don't all get round to putting one in place. Maybe we don't believe that we have anything to leave, maybe we assume our assets will pass in a certain way anyway or maybe we just don't want to think about it!
Whatever the reason for not having a Will, it is almost certainly better to have one than not to have one and if you do have one it is important that it is well thought out, correctly drafted and still covers your wishes.
Here are some important things to consider when it comes to Wills:
- Marriage, divorce and separation – unless your Will was validly drafted “in expectation of marriage” it will be revoked by marriage. Your Will will still be valid after a divorce but it will be read as if your former spouse died before you. If you include an unmarried partner in your Will and subsequently separate, then your Will, including any gift to that person, will remain valid.
- Unmarried partners, children and/or grandchildren – if you made a Will and subsequently met a partner or had children or grandchildren then those persons will not benefit unless your Will was validly drafted to include such persons within a “class” of beneficiaries or is covered by a specific definition.
- Death of a beneficiary and/or no “default" beneficiaries – depending on his/her relationship to you and how your Will was drafted, that gift may fail completely or pass elsewhere. if all of your beneficiaries have died before you and no default beneficiaries are named then the intestacy rules will apply.
- Change of assets – if you include a gift of a specific item and subsequently that item is sold, given away during your lifetime then, depending on how your Will was drafted, that gift may fail completely. If you subsequently acquire other specific items they will either fall into your residue or pass to a general “chattels" beneficiary.
- Not having considered all relevant factors - such as; increases to the value of your estate, which assets will pass outside of your Will, how foreign and/or business assets will pass, whether to use trusts, the ages at which beneficiaries should inherit, who to appoint as guardians for your children, whether a claim may be able to be brought against your estate and inheritance tax
- Execution – if you do not follow certain legal formalities when signing your Will, it will not be valid. Broadly speaking a Will must be signed in the presence of two independent adult witnesses present at the same time.
Despite the current “lockdown" measures in the UK, it is still possible to discuss your Will instructions with a solicitor and to have a Will drawn up. The social distancing rules in place at the moment may make it more difficult to arrange for the valid execution of your Will but a solicitor will be able to advise you in respect of this too.