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Last Christmas I gave you my heart...

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...this year, I'm giving you my will!

OK, so it doesn’t roll off the tongue in the same way as the Wham! classic (at all!) and it might sound a bit gloomy, but take a moment and think about it.

It’s the thought that counts

That’s what we all say at Christmas, isn’t it? But what could be more thoughtful than saving your nearest and dearest from unnecessary additional stress and heartache?

We all know that talking about death and writing wills isn’t exactly a hot topic at the best of times, let alone at Christmas.

It’s morbid and we’re British - it’s no one’s idea of fun and it’s not remotely festive!

BUT, the reality is we’re all going to die at some point and, if we don’t talk about it or plan for it, the potential financial and emotional costs to loved ones can be extreme.

What happens if I don’t have a will?

The death of a loved one is an immense trauma and, aside from dealing with the associated immediate bureaucratic and financial issues, can be significantly worsened by confusion, arguments and stress caused by the absence of a will.

If you die and you have not made a valid will, it’s described as having died intestate. This means that your estate will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy , regardless of what your wishes and intentions may have been.

Food for thought

There are many misconceptions that family will automatically inherit in the absence of a will, or decide between themselves how your estate is split. This is not the case. The rules of intestacy are rigid and it’s worth being aware of just some of the conditions applied:

  1. Your spouse or civil partner will only receive a certain amount of your estate (currently, the first £250,000 after debts have been paid off, plus half of everything above that amount)
  2. If you were separated but had not divorced or legally ended your civil partnership, your ex-spouse or ex-civil partner may still inherit, potentially meaning that your children may not inherit from any of your estate.
  3. Step-children will receive nothing (unless you legally adopted them), regardless of your relationship or how long you cared for them.
  4. Children will only receive inheritance when they either reach the age of 18 or marry or enter into a civil partnership before the age of 18 (assets will be held in trust for the child/ren until that age)
  5. Grandchildren or great-grandchildren will not inherit any of your estate unless certain criteria is met.
  6. Even if you were estranged, relatives such as parents, siblings, uncles and aunties may inherit some of your estate.
  7. Carers, friends, partners who are either unmarried or not in a civil partnership, relations via marriage will not inherit any of your estate.
  8. Any Inheritance Tax that your estate has to pay may be higher than it would be if you’d made a will.

I’ll do it tomorrow…

It’s easy to ignore the matter of your will, sweep it under the carpet, pretend it doesn’t apply to you or just put it off eternally.

In 2014, the Law Society conducted research which revealed that this is still the case and millions of Britons have no will – statistics showed 73% of 16-54 years old and 36% of over-55s did not have a will.

But there are endless tragic examples of how the absence of a will has resulted in either i) a close family member or dear friend has received nothing from a person’s estate or ii) someone with whom the person had an estranged relationship had gone on to receive an inheritance under the rules of intestacy.

Peace of mind this Christmas

OK, so your will probably won’t make the best stocking filler and we’re not suggesting you wrap it up and present it on the 25th December!

The presents under the tree can still be the perfume, the Xbox, the slippers, the smellies and the socks, and you may not even decide to tell your family and friends about your will.

But, as an added bonus this Christmas, why not get your affairs in order knowing it will ultimately make life that little bit easier for all your loved ones in the future?

Act now!

Sorting your will can be both simple and straightforward, and need not cost the earth - why not pop in to one of our FREE Wills & Probate drop-in clinics to find out more.

Plus we’re currently offering a FREE wills initiative until the end of the year.

We’ve partnered with Cancer Research and PDSA who will cover the costs of a simple Will or mirror Will, making it even easier for you to get one drawn up or updated.

There is no obligation for you to include any gifts or charitable donations in your Will and there’s no cost…so now there’s no excuse!

 

As there is limited availability and some conditions apply, please contact our Wills & Probate lawyer Natalie Whitmore on 01606 48777 or nataliewhitemore@susanhowarthsolicitors.co.uk for more details.

 

This article has been written for your general information only and is not a detailed statement of the law. It should not be used as a substitute for specific legal advice. If you require specific legal advice please do not hesitate to contact us on 01606 48777.

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