Wills and Probate

What is a Will and why is it important?

A Will not only sets out an individual’s instructions about who should receive gifts from or a share of their estate, it also allows an individual to say who should look after their estate and, if they have young children, who should look after those children should they die before the children reach the age of eighteen.

The person chosen to look after an individual’s estate after their death is called an executor and it is their responsibility to collect the individuals assets, pay their debts and ensure that the people mentioned in the Will receive the gifts or share in the estate left to them by the individual. Where gifts have been left to children who will only receive it at a specified age, it is the executor’s duty to look after that gift for them until they reach the specified age or to let them or those looking after them, have all or some of the gift before they reach the specified age if the executor thinks it appropriate to do so. An executor should therefore be trustworthy and capable.

If the executor is looking after money for the individual’s own children then they should be somebody with whom the person chosen to look after the individual’s children (the guardian) feels comfortable enough to approach for access to those funds to meet the needs of the children. Careful thought should therefore be given to who the chosen executor and guardian are. An individual should always ask their chosen executor and/or guardian whether they are happy to act before appointing them as such in a Will. Executors can seek the help of a solicitor when dealing with an individual’s estate.

Many people also use their Will to say whether they want to be buried or cremated after their death. If an individual wants to donate their body for research purposes or organ transplants then they should discuss this with their GP.

The estate’s of individuals who don’t have Wills will pass under the Intestacy Rules to relatives of the individual. This could lead to the estate passing to people who have not spoken to or bothered with the individual for years. In larger estates it could also lead to inheritance tax having to be paid when a husband or wife dies and some of the estate goes to the children rather than to the surviving widow or widower.

The effect of having no Will where couples are in a long term relationship, but are not married or in a civil partnership can be devastating, especially if the partner who dies is the primary breadwinner. The surviving partner does not have an automatic right to anything in the partner who has died’s estate. If there is no Will they would have to make a claim in court against the partner who has died’s estate. This could take a very long time to resolve.

In blended families, Wills incorporating trusts can be used to ensure that a husband or wife from a second marriage is looked after, but that the children from a previous marriage don’t lose out. Trusts in Wills can also be used to provide for relatives who are disabled or who are unable to manage their own finances.

A well drawn Will can give you peace of mind, knowing that those you love will be properly provided for and that those you trust will be in charge of looking after your estate and giving effect to your wishes after your death.

Call one of our solicitors today to arrange an appointment to make a Will. Don’t put it off. We don’t know what tomorrow may bring and who knows, by then it may be too late.