Sir Roger Moore, David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, the list goes on. It is going to happen to us all at some point, and if it happens when you don't have a Will in place, on top of the grief, it can cause a financial nightmare for family and loved ones. Putting your dying wishes in black and white is not complicated, nor expensive. Making a Will allows you to express your final wishes clearly, and without one you are leaving it up to the law to decide how your estate (your money, possessions and property) is passed on – and this may not be the way you wanted it. While death, and our treatment until death, can be a difficult topic to think about, it is important to consider making your wishes known now in the event that you cannot make them later.
Some areas to consider:
- Have your circumstances changed recently? Married? Divorced? Kids? Re-married? Make sure your Will is updated when your circumstances change. If you want a specific family member of friend to take care of your children but that person is not your next of kin, then you need to ensure you designate that person specifically in your will.
- Children – if you have children under 18 you should decide who looks after them and ensure there are funds to help.
- Owner of a small business – without an executor, and if you are a sole director, your business could collapse.
- Non traditional family? Unmarried couples or not in a civil partnership? In the eyes of the law, a couple who are living together don’t have the same automatic rights as a married couple when it comes to sorting out a deceased person’s estate.
- Property – make sure your mortgage plan says what happens to your house.
- Inheritance Tax – a Will can also help reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax that may be payable on the value of the property and money you leave behind.
- Funeral plans – detail what you want so family members don’t have to make these decisions in difficult circumstances.
- If you die before you take your pension pot, make sure you have nominated someone to collect it for you. If not, it may become a part of your estate and it is then up to the executor of your Will to determine who gets the money.
The law of succession saw its most significant overhaul in 50 years at the end of last year making fundamental changes to legislation and having a big impact on Wills, especially regarding Wills after divorce, dissolution and annulment, and in situations where family members die together. If you made your Will some time ago, it is worth reviewing it.
Survivorship destinations is another area that needs to be considered when two or more people buy a house together. Title to the property will usually be taken in joint names and frequently in equal shares. The effect of a survivorship destination is to provide that on the death of the first in a couple to die, the title which belonged to the predeceasing partner will automatically transfer to the survivor, which can often be a convenient and less costly process for the surviving partner.
It is not just a death that needs to be considered. What if you are suffering from a terminal illness and are incapable of making a decison regarding medical treatment? An Advance Directive, sometimes called a “living will”, allows you to state how you would like to be treated by medical professionals and family in the event of an illness or accident that leaves you without capacity to make these decisions at the time. Also consider nominating a Power of Attorney, perhaps a trusted relative or friend, to make decisions for you should you be incapable of doing so. A POA will legally be able to help with your financial affairs as well as make decisions about your personal welfare.
If you want to be sure your wishes are met after you die, then a Will is vital. It is essential that you regularly review your Will, should your personal or financial situation change, to ensure it still reflects your true intentions.
Don't leave it too late. Get in touch with McQueen Legal today to discuss your Will.