A Guide to Wills in the UK
Whilst it isn’t easy thinking about how life will be for your loved ones after you’re no longer here, it is important to ensure that your property and possessions will be passed on according to your wishes.
If you don’t have a will in place at the time of your death, the UK law will step in and a set of regulations, known as Intestacy Rules, will dictate exactly what is going to happen to your property and money.
A will is an incredibly important consideration, as it will help to protect the loved ones you leave behind financially.
What is a will?
Simply put, a will is a legal document that sets out how you want your property and/or belongings (this is known as your estate) to be distributed amongst your loved ones in the event of your death.
The Importance of a will
By making a will, you can control how your property and affairs will be dealt with in the event of your death. This can give you peace of mind that the process will be a little easier for your loved ones after you pass away, and everyone knows where they stand.
Making a will also ensures that those closest to you are adequately provided for after you have gone. Your loved ones can be more secure in the knowledge that steps have been taken to provide them with financial security.
What happens if I don’t have a will?
If you pass away without a valid will in place (known as passing away intestate), the UK law sets out a rigid set of rules under The Administration of Estates Act 1925, called the Intestacy Rules.
These rules dictate how a person’s estate (property, money, possessions, etc.) will be divided amongst the family (or whoever you choose as beneficiaries).
This, however, could potentially lead to family disputes or dependants suffering hardship if the Intestacy Rules result in an outcome that is at odds with your wishes – something that you probably do not want to happen.
Making a will is particularly important for:
Unmarried couples (as their relationship is not recognised under the Intestacy Rules)
Those who are married
Those who have children from a previous relationship (step children are not provided for under the Intestacy Rules).
What are the benefits of having a will?
So why should you consider making a will? There are many advantages of making a will, such as peace of mind that your wishes will be properly taken into consideration. More reasons to make a will are as follows:
Financial security for your children or loved ones
Pay less inheritance tax
Appoint guardians for your children
Make gifts of possessions (e.g. a car or jewellery) and/or money
You choose your executors
Give personal funeral wishes
Arrangements for pets
Avoid a lengthy probate process
Avoid family disputes over inheritance
You can provide for vulnerable family members
Avoid any unintended consequences of intestacy (passing away without a valid will in place)
If you pass away without any living close relatives, your estate will automatically belong to the Crown or government
Inheritance Tax benefits of wills
Making a will provides you with the opportunity to assess the tax position of your estate, and to consider what steps may need to be taken in order to minimise the inheritance tax liability.
The tax savings that come with wills far exceed the small cost of actually making a will.
Choosing your Executors
Making a will enables you to be in control of deciding who (in your family) will be responsible for managing your affairs and making sure your wishes are carries out after your death.
If you don’t have anyone suitable to act for you, it is possible to appoint someone outside your family, such as a solicitor.
Avoiding inheritance disputes
Unfortunately, someone dying intestate in the UK means that the Intestacy Rules must be followed, which could lead to family disputes if someone you care about is not provided for as you wish and expect.
The UK law also enables certain people to be able to make a claim against an estate if the deceased person failed to make reasonable financial provision for them.
Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, a defendant can challenge the distribution of the estate. This claim can be made even if there is a will in place, however, a will provides the opportunity for the deceased to state their wishes and even offer an explanation as to how/why the estate is to be divided in a certain way.
This can be taken into consideration when a Court is assessing any potential claim, or could even prevent a claim from being made altogether.
Do I still need a will if I’m married?
We know that it is particularly important for unmarried couples to have a will in place to protect their partner, but do you still need a will if you are married? Usually, yes.
If you’re married, your wife or husband may inherit most (possibly all) of your estate, and your children might not get anything. This is true even if you are separated, but not if you are divorced.
Under the Intestacy Rules, if you are married or in a civil partnership and have no children, your spouse will receive everything. So if you wish for others to also benefit from your estate, a will is important for making sure that happens.
A will also clarifies exactly what will happen to your estate, if your spouse were to pass away before you.
For married couples who have children (whether together or from a previous relationship), the rules state that the spouse will receive all personal possessions, plus the first £250,000 together with interest on that amount from the date of death, plus one half of everything that remains. The children would receive the other half of the remaining estate.
If you have step children or children from a previous marriage or relationship, the Intestacy Rules may not protect them in the way that you might wish them to be looked after once you’re gone.
By making a will, you can also appoint guardians to look after your children and manage their inheritance (if they are minors), if both parents died. If you die without a will, the court could appoint this person for you.
Do you need a will when buying a house?
Legally, you are not required to have a will in place when buying a house. However, it does make a lot of sense to have one when you buy a property.
Buying a house is a good reason for having a will, as you can specify exactly who should inherit your house and other possessions in the event of your death.
This ensures that your dependants and/or partners are provided for and protected financially, which is particularly important if they live with you.
At Compare UK Quotes, we can help further explain how having a will would benefit you and we can answer any questions you may have – simply get in touch today!
If I have no assets, do I still need a will?
Yes, a will is still an important consideration to have in place even if you do not have many assets.
Your ‘estate’ consists of many things: your property (such as a car), the money in your bank account, personal possessions such as furniture or jewellery, and any other valuable and personal items you own. When you pass away, all of your possessions (no matter what they are) still need to be distributed.
You may also have possessions that may not have financial value, but are sentimental to you and could still be left to a loved one in your will. Therefore, whilst you may not own a property or have significant savings, you could have other belongings that can be passed on to family or friends.
At what age should you make a will?
Many people are unsure when they need to have a will and perhaps feel they are too young, but this isn’t something that you should put off.
You must be at least 18 years of age to make a will, unless you are a soldier on active duty, or sailor at sea - in which case, you can be any age.
There is no maximum age limit for making a will, but you must be of ‘sound testamentary capacity’. This means that you must be mentally capable of understanding what you are doing, and the implications of the same.
Unfortunately, we never know what's around the corner. There is always the possibility that you may find yourself in a position where your mental capacity disenables you to legally make a will, such as through illness or injury, for example. It’s always best to be prepared, especially when it comes to protecting your loved ones.
It is also important to make a will at certain milestones in your life, such as when you have a child, so that you can appoint a legal guardian. Getting married also invalidates any previous wills that has been made, therefore it is important to renew your will in that instance. In the event of divorce or if you become separated from your spouse, a new will needs to be made.
Contact us today to find out how making a will could benefit you and your loved ones.