When someone passes away without a Will, they are known to have died ‘intestate’ and as such, the ‘Rules of Intestacy’ apply. This process determines who should inherit and what they should inherit, based on your family connections. The rules do not consider the closeness of your relationships, or who would benefit the most from you dying. This means that your estate would not necessarily pass to your desired beneficiaries. Add to this the extra costs, administration and time that is taken in administering your estate, dying without a Will could cause an unnecessary amount of additional stress on what is already an upsetting situation.
It’s astonishing how many people are unaware that the law of marriage revokes a Will. A new marriage would null and avoid your Will meaning that if you then died, your estate would be subject to the Rules of Intestacy. Although your assets are not necessarily written into your Will, the acquisition of new assets could have implications on the distribution of your estate as well as new Inheritance Tax implications. It could be welcoming a new baby or grandchild into your life or entering a new marriage, civil partnership or cohabitation. It might be that you have newly acquired assets or have new gift distributions. It could even be that one or more of your Executors, Guardians or Beneficiaries have passed away themselves or you have you lost touch with them. Our lives change and our Wills need to reflect this.
Not necessarily, however, in most circumstances the divorce would exclude your ex-spouse from your current Will and your gifts and estate would pass to your beneficiaries next in line. This can obviously cause conflict and it would always be advisable to review your Will should you get divorced to ensure there are no discrepancies.
A Testator is the person who is making the will. A female Testator is sometimes referred to as a Testatrix.
An Executor is the person(s) you appoint to administrate your Will. They are responsible for collecting the assets of the deceased’s estate, paying any debts from the estate, paying any applicable taxes, and distributing the assets of the estate in accordance with the instructions of the Will. An Executor can be anybody over 18 years old and it would be wise to choose reserves Executors in the event your first choices cannot act. It would be prudent to choose an Executor who has no previous criminal convictions or bankruptcies as the court may revoke their appointment on your death.
Yes, your Executor can be a Beneficiary in your Will.
You will need two people to witness you signing your Will. These people must be over 18, be able to see and must have full mental capacity. Your witnesses must not be a Beneficiary – if your beneficiary were to sign your Will they would disinherit themselves. Your witnesses can be a couple and do not have to be a professional or notary public.
It can do if you would like it to, however, it might be a better idea to have a Will drafted in the country where your assets are held. This would prevent your Will being held up for bureaucratic reasons. Any Will you make in a foreign country should have a clause to prevent it revoking Wills you have made previous in other countries.
Joint ownership is where two or more owners jointly own an asset. Usually a property or a bank account. Where two or more people jointly own an asset, the property will be ‘absorbed’ by the other owners if one should decease, regardless of how the Wills are written. You can change a joint asset to something called tenants in common. This means each owners’ share is outlined and can pass through their respective Wills to their desired beneficiaries.
We have an annual gifting allowance of £3,000. This means we can give away this amount each year and it will come off the value of our estate. If unused, it can roll onto the next year but not any further. The amount we give away above our allowance remains part of our taxable estate for 7 years. In theory, this process is designed to prevent one from gifting their estate away quickly to avoid Inheritance Tax on their death.