What happens to my estate if I die without a Will?

If you die without a valid Will the state will dictate how your money, property and possessions are distributed. It does this by applying a set of rules – the intestacy rules – which don’t always reflect modern family arrangements and may mean your estate is not being distributed as you would have wanted. In particular, unmarried partners are not recognised by the intestacy rules. The intestacy rules refer to the deceased’s “issue” – that is all his or her direct descendants including adopted and illegitimate children, but not step-children. If you’re married or in a civil partnership and have issue: Your surviving spouse/civil partner gets all your personal possessions, the first £250,000 of the estate and half of whatever’s left. Your issue receives the other half. If you’re married or in a civil partnership but have no issue: Your spouse or civil partner receives your entire estate. If you have no spouse or civil partner: Your estate will be inherited in the following order: Your issue Your parents Your siblings Your half brothers and sisters Your grandparents Your uncles and aunts Your half-uncles and aunts Who can’t inherit under the intestacy rules? Step children unless they’ve been legally adopted by you Unmarried partners or those not in a civil partnership – irrespective of how long you’ve been living together Relations by marriage Friends Carers The intestacy rules are complex. This is an overview of some of the situations they cover. To find out more go to the Government’s website, where they have a tool you can use to see of these rules could affect you. It is easy...

How can I change or update my Will?

Things change all the time, so it’s important you review your Will on a regular basis or when anything big happens in your life which is likely to affect the choices you’ve made. Typical reasons for changing your Will If you have children (more children) or grandchildren. If you get married – marriage automatically revokes a Will in England and Wales (but not in Scotland). If you get divorced. Someone named in your Will as a beneficiary, executor or guardian has died. If there are changes to inheritance tax rules or other legislation. If you’ve sold something you’ve named as a gift in your Will or if you’ve bought something new. If you’ve simply changed your mind about anything or anyone named in your Will. Amend your Will or write a new one? When it comes to making changes to your Will you typically have two options – writing a new Will or adding a codicil. Writing a new Will keeps things simple. Under English and Welsh law a Will can be revoked by a later Will. So the simplest thing to do is to make a new Will which makes clear that any previous Wills are revoked. This avoids any inconsistency. Since most Wills are written and stored electronically making a new Will can be done easily without having to start from scratch. A codicil allows for amends to be made to an existing Will by detailing the changes in a separate document. This must be signed and witnessed the same way as a Will to be valid. This is a more old fashioned way of making changes,...

Do I need a solicitor to make my Will?

It is perfectly legal for you to write your own Will. Most people’s affairs are relatively straightforward and are perfectly suited to using our services. Affio allows you to express your wishes simply and clearly and then translates them into the same legal language as a solicitor would use. It is important your Will is legally valid, clear and will do exactly as you want it to – that is why getting the right sort of help in putting it together is vital. A poorly drafted Will could mean the following: Badly drafted clauses or unclear instructions mean your wishes aren’t carried out as you’d requested. Your Will is left open to a legal challenge. Your Will is not legally valid. Of course, if things are more complicated, for example if you have a particularly complex financial situation, or a dependant with special needs, then using a solicitor is something you should consider. Related Articles: How do I make sure that my Will is legal? Do I need a solicitor to sign or witness my Will? Back to the Knowledge...

What should be included in my Will?

What you decide to include (or not) in your Will is up to you. You can go into as much detail as you want, or just cover the basics – it is more about making sure your savings and possessions (your estate) go to the people you want it to go to. Being absolutely clear about who you want to benefit when you die will not only remove any doubt and help avoid any family disputes, but also help your loved ones sort out your affairs at what will be a difficult time for them. First things first A good starting point to knowing what and who you might want to include in your Will is to consider the following questions: What do you own? Properties, vehicles, savings and investments, jewellery, antiques, furniture, clothes, personal belongings, pets…the list goes on. You need to have a general sense of what you own, but you won’t need to list every item! What do you owe? Mortgage, credit cards, loans, equity release, etc. Do you have children under 18? If so, you may want to think about appointing guardians for them. Who do you want to benefit from your will? Your partner, children, special friends or neighbours, charities, etc. Do you have any other special requests? Organ donation or funeral arrangements are things many choose to include. Who do you want to appoint as your executors? The types of gifts you can leave in your Will You can make specific gifts to particular people or charities and then state where you want everything that’s left over (called the “residue”) to go. Or...

Who should make a Will?

Young or old, if you’re over 18 you should have a Will. Let’s face it no one knows what’s around the corner and it makes sense to be prepared. If you’re at the younger end of the scale with no health issues or responsibilities, perhaps getting a Will in place isn’t the top of your priorities, but still shouldn’t be something you keep putting off. When a Will should be a priority It obviously becomes more important to have a Will if you’re older or you have health issues. It is also important if you have a family, others you’re responsible for or if you’re living with your partner, but not married to them. It is only by making a Will that you can be certain your wishes will be carried out and your estate distributed as you wanted it. Without a Will the state will dictate how your money, property and possessions are distributed using a set of rules (intestacy rules), which don’t always reflect modern family arrangements and can mean key people in your life not being included at all. If you have a family If you have children under 18 your Will is where you will make important provisions in the event of your death. These can include appointing guardians for them and catering for their ongoing financial wellbeing. If you’re living with your partner If you’re not married or in a civil partnership with your partner and die without making provision for them in your Will, they will inherit nothing from your estate. Instead everything you own would be distributed according to the rules of...

How do I make sure that my Will is legal?

There are a number of formalities you’ll need to follow to make sure your Will is legally valid. If your Will is deemed to be invalid when you die, your estate will have to be dealt with as if there was no Will, being distributed according to the rules of intestacy and not as you’d requested. The good news is that the rules for making a valid Will are quite easy to comply with, so really there’s no excuse for getting it wrong. For a Will to be legally valid it must be: Made by someone who is at least 18 years of age. Made voluntarily and without pressure from anyone else. Made by someone who has mental capacity. That means they are aware that they are making a Will, they understand the extent of their assets and they understand who, morally, might have a claim on their assets. Made by someone who understands the contents of the particular Will. In writing. Dated. Signed by the person making the Will, in the presence of two witnesses. Signed by the two witnesses, in the presence of the person making the Will. The Will does not need to be dated to be valid, but it is a good idea for the date to be included. Witnessing the Will There are no particular rules around who can witness your Will, other than they must be present when you sign it and must understand what they are doing. However, if a beneficiary of the Will (or their spouse or civil partner) witnesses the Will that person will not be entitled to inherit. So,...