What is the legacy you wish to leave to your family? Stability and peace of mind or confusion and distress? If you die without a valid will, it is likely to be the latter. Making a will is a fundamental part of planning for your and your family’s future. However, so many of us fail to create one, causing significant problems for our loved ones after we die.
At Labrums, we provide a straightforward and value for money wills and trusts service, including advice and help with preparing and updating your will, as well as support when setting up a trust. To find out more about making a will and creating a trust today, contact our wills and trusts solicitors in St Albans.
What Happens if I Die Without a Will?
If you die without a will, your estate will be dealt with according to the rules of intestacy. These are a set of legal rules that determine who should inherit your assets. Leaving the division of your estate to these default instructions often means your estate is distributed in a way that you would not have intended. In particular, unmarried partners and close friends have no right to inherit under the intestacy rules.
In addition, if you die without a will, you will miss the opportunity to shield your hard-earned assets from the taxman and local authority care costs for generations to come, through ‘bloodline planning’. This also protects you from the risk of your surviving spouse or children forming relationships with people you would not wish your estate to pass to, or getting divorced or having creditors.
Making a will gives you maximum control over how your property, money and personal belongings will be distributed after your death, giving you peace of mind that your loved ones will be taken care of.
It can also save considerable time and cost. If you have not made a will, enquiries will have to be made to ensure that one was not in fact made. It also increases the possibility that some relatives and friends will claim that they were promised something leading to disputes and upset when you least need it.
How do I Make a Will?
For a will to be valid and enforceable, it has to satisfy certain requirements. It must be:
- in writing
- made by someone over 18
- made by someone who is of sound mind
- made voluntarily
- signed in the presence of two witnesses over 18
- signed by two witnesses in the will writer’s presence
It is not a legal requirement that a solicitor drafts your will, however there are many reasons why it is beneficial to instruct a specialist wills lawyer. Your solicitor will be able to ensure your will is legally valid, avoiding the situation where after your death your will is found to have no effect. Further, a wills lawyer can inform you about how tax, property and trusts law apply to your circumstances, and draft terms that account for this. What is more, your lawyer will ensure clear language is used to set out your wishes to avoid your family having any uncertainties about your intentions, reducing the risk of disputes.
The advice of an expert wills solicitor is especially advantageous where your will is complex, for example where you own assets overseas or if you are a business owner.
We are seeing many more cases where wills are prepared by people who are not fully qualified or experienced that leads to the deceased’s needs not being fully understood or provided for. Often what seems the cheapest solution is not the best value.
How Do I Update my Will?
It is important to review your will at least every five years and after any significant changes occur in your life, for example where you get married, divorced or separated, have a baby or buy a property. Marriage automatically makes an earlier will (unless expressed to be made specifically in contemplation of that marriage) invalid. If you get divorced, an earlier will takes effect as if your spouse had died. Official alterations to your will are made by documents called codicils, and there is no limit to the number of these you can create.
Our lawyers can help you review your will on a regular basis to ensure the terms continue to reflect your intentions. We ensure any alterations to your will are prepared in accordance with the legal requirements that apply.
Should I Set Up a Trust?
If you wish young children or grandchildren or vulnerable family members to benefit from your estate, it may be advisable to set up a trust. They can also be used if you want to protect your hard-earned income or assets in the future. Unwise or unwelcome marriages are always a possibility and children can have issues.
A trust is a legal arrangement that gives control to an individual, group of people or an organisation over your assets for the benefit of another person or people. A trust deed will set out instructions for how you wish your assets to be managed, for example you may direct that money, property or other assets be given to the beneficiaries once they reach a certain age. Trusts have many benefits, one of the biggest being that they allow you to reduce your inheritance tax liabilities.
In addition, you can give your trustees guidance even after you have passed on by means of a Letter of Wishes, which can be provided for your trustees’ eyes only. A Letter of Wishes cannot bind your trustees but will make your preferences and views known to them.
Our trusts lawyers can advise you on all matters relating to setting up a trust, from choosing the most appropriate type of trust and trustees to drafting clear and precise wording for your trust deed.
Contact our Wills and Trusts Lawyers, St Albans
Our wills and trusts solicitors have been helping clients from St Albans and the surrounding areas with effective future planning for over 25 years. Our clients value our advice and support with matters that are most important to them. If you are looking for wills and trust lawyers who will identify and understand your specific challenges and requirements to deliver what you want call our team on 01727 858807 or use our online enquiry form and we will be in touch.