Do make your Will(s) and don’t “Do It Yourself”

Do make your Will(s) and don’t “Do It Yourself”

It continues to amaze Lawyers – Notaries and Solicitors alike – how many otherwise sensible adults have not prepared their Wills.

If you do not make your Will, then you will:-

1 Make your Estate liable for payment of Inheritance Tax at the highest possible rate in respect of its value. That is to say, you will have failed to maximise possible tax relief.

2 Make your money go to people you would not have wanted to receive it. If you have a spouse and children and if you own more than £250,000 on death, did you know that your spouse will NOT receive the whole of your estate?

If you die with assets of £2 million, do you really want your spouse to receive £250,000.00 only and the rest go to the kids? If you have a spouse and no children, do you want over £1.5million to go to your nephew?

Think about it – if you have £2million how much of that is tied up in the value of the house. So if the consequences of the intestacy are that an immediate £775,000.00 has to be paid out to the nephew, how can that be done unless the house is sold and then where is your spouse going to live?

It doesn’t matter that you can hardly believe it – this is what can happen.

It doesn’t just happen once in a blue moon either – according to the figures stated by SAGA, in UK last year (2011) over 4000 houses were sold because someone had died without a Will. The sad sad reality – In one sudden shock, someone has been widowed and forced to move to a much smaller house and leave the home behind with all their memories.

3. Risk causing a rift between your loved ones that might never be repaired. The glib assumption is that families fall out over inheritances because they are greedy.

In my experience that is usually not the case. What happens when someone dies, especially in the case of sudden death, is that the friends and family have to deal with the situation in a state of shock.

Often people feel a sense of guilt, however irrationally. This can come to the surface as a wish to ensure that the wishes of the deceased person are respected.

At an early stage in a fight about inheritance all parties are likely to say to each other “I KNOW WHAT S/HE WOULD HAVE WANTED”.

The trouble is, that A is convinced the deceased WOULD HAVE WANTED something which is exactly the opposite of what B believes WOULD HAVE BEEN WANTED.

It is too late to ask the person who has died – and didn’t make a Will!

So the fight goes on, the value of the Estate gets wasted on Lawyer’s fees and no-one ever does get to find out what “was wanted”.

4. Risk your foreign-owned Property passing under compulsory Inheritance rules applicable in the Foreign Country – which are likely to be very different to the UK intestacy rules and which may devolve your Property there in a way you do not want and which could have been avoided if you had made a Will.

There are more reasons but surely those four make the case?

Perhaps I can add a fifth one – failing to make a Will does not ensure that you will live longer, not even by a day.

In the headline I say – Make your Will(s) – I mean, perhap more than one. Obviously if you make a Will in respect of “all of my assets wheresoever in the World” then you cannot make another one without revoking the first one at least partially. What I am referring to, is my advice that if you have Property (whether money or interests in Land) in more than one Country, you should make a separate Will in respect of your assets, one Will for each country.

Doing so will give you the opportunity to maximise tax relief in respect of the laws of the Countries concerned. You should also take advice as to where the Wills should be made.

A UK citizen domiciled in UK with assets in Spain, for example, can make a Will in UK in respect of assets here, and a Will in Spain (or a Spanish Will executed in England before a Notary Public here) for the Spanish assets.

However if the UK citizen is domiciled in Spain, the Spanish courts may take the view that a UK will cannot be validly made at all. It is complicated and specialist advice is essential.

Finally, you should not SHOULD NOT seek to save a few bob by making your own Will. Just don’t. I have seen a great many home made Wills in my career. I think that every single one of them had defects.

If a million monkeys type for a million years, they might type the works of Shakespeare it is said. I think they would more likely do that, than type a valid Will. And then they might get the wrong person to witness it!

Please, decide today that you will make your Will. Tomorrow, sadly for us humans, might be too late.