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Specialist Private Client Solicitor at Sweeney Miller Law, Gemma Brown explains the importance of having an up to date Will.

What is a Will?

A Will is a legal document that lets you decide what happens to your money, property and possessions after your death.

Who should make a Will?

Everyone aged 18 or over who owns property or has savings and/or investments should make a Will.

What happens if I do not make a Will?

If you do not have a Will then the Intestacy Rules will dictate who will inherit your money, property and possessions and these people may not be the ones you wish to inherit anything from you.

If you are cohabiting but are not married and you do not make a Will, then your partner will not benefit from your estate.

If you have re-married your children from a previous marriage or relationship may not benefit at all on your death.

If you are married and do not have any children then your surviving spouse will inherit everything.

If you are married and have children then your surviving spouse will inherit:

  • All personal chattels
  • The first £270,000.00
  • Half of the remaining estate (if the estate exceeds £270,000.00)
  • The right to acquire the deceased’s interest in the matrimonial home

The other half of the remaining estate exceeding £270,000.00 will go to any surviving children.

How many Executors should I appoint?

The minimum number is one. In principle, there is no maximum. However, as only a maximum of four can apply for the Grant of Probate there is little point in naming more than four Executors.

If only one Executor is named, then there is a risk that they may predecease the testator or become unable or unwilling to act for some other reason. It is therefore prudent to appoint at least two Executors or name a substitute.

What are the impacts of jointly owned property?

There are two different ways of jointly owning property. These are as beneficial joint tenants or as tenants in common.

If the property is held as joint tenants, in the event of one of your deaths, the deceased owner’s share automatically passes to the surviving owner and not in accordance with their Will.

On the other hand, if the property is held as tenants in common, then in the event of one of your deaths, the deceased owner’s share will not pass to the survivor of you but will pass in accordance with your Will.

Can I amend my Will?

You cannot amend your Will after it has been signed and witnessed. The only way you can change your Will is by making a Codicil which can be utilised for any minor changes, e.g. removing an Executor. For major changes then you should make a new Will.

How can I avoid a challenge to my Will?

Unfortunately, there is no way you can completely lock down your Will against any contests or disputes. However, you can take the following steps to help avoid the situation:

  1. Plan as early as you can to ensure that you have the requisite mental capacity when creating the Will
  2. Use a professional lawyer who will be able to pin-point any potential loopholes or pitfalls
  3. Make at least a lump sum provision in your Will for those relatives who may have a potential claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975
  4. Avoid making regular payments to those relatives you wish to leave out of your Will
  5. Write an accompanying letter to add context to your decisions
  6. Keep your family members in the loop
  7. Give charitably during your lifetime
  8. Review your Will every 5 years and after any major change in your life, e.g. getting divorced/married or having a child

Gemma Brown specialises in private client work and delivers high quality Wills & Probate services, including Lasting and Enduring Powers of Attorney. Please note that this information is for general guidance only. If you have any queries about making a Will, please get in touch with Gemma by emailing gemma@sweeneymiller.co.uk or by calling 0191 568 2050.

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