Creating a will is the only sure fire way you can be secure in the knowledge that when you die your wishes will be adhered to. This ranges from matters involving your finances, property, businesses, children and end of life are to name a few. If you do not have a will, upon your death everything will be subject to the rules of intestacy and only certain people will be entitled to receive anything and even that may not be as you would wish it to be.
There are several legal formalities that will need to be completed in the creation of a will which our expert Private Client solicitors can guide you through. If you have been diagnosed with a progressive mental ill ness such as Alzheimer’s or Dementia, additional checks will need to be made to verify your mental capacity at the time of making your will. This is to ensure that any decisions outlined in your will are made with your full understanding.
Our wills, trusts and probate solicitors can:
- draft a will to your exact requirements;
- prepare a will at short notice, including at your hospital bed or over the telephone if you are abroad or suddenly become unwell;
- apply to the Court of Protection for a statutory will on behalf of a relative who is unable to make a will in the normal way;
- ensure the legal formalities needed to create a valid will are complied with;
- take extra steps to ensure that everything is done properly where you have been diagnosed with deteriorating mental health;
- prepare a letter of wishes to accompany your will to deal with matters like funeral arrangements and to explain any decisions that may come as a surprise to your family;
- advise you on the best way to structure your affairs for tax planning to ensure you pay no more inheritance tax than necessary;
- put in place arrangements for the protection of vulnerable beneficiaries, for example by setting up a trust; and
- create a deed of variation to change the terms of a will or the rules of intestacy to make provision for other relatives or to save tax.
We can also assist with other matters to help you put your legal affairs in order, including the creation of a lasting power of attorney to enable you to appoint someone of your choosing to manage your affairs if you become unable to do so yourself through deterioration of mental or physical health.
Advising families throughout Kent and beyond
We have offices in Maidstone, Gravesend, Tonbridge, Chatham and Tenterden where we can meet you to discuss your requirements.
We can also offer meetings at your home, in hospital or in a care facility, and in exceptional circumstances a telephone appointment can be arranged via skype.
An initial appointment to discuss your requirements can be arranged from £95 plus VAT. After that we can agree funding arrangements to suit your budget.
Why make a will?
- Leave your money and property to anyone to like – your family, your friends, even your favourite charities
- Give your loved ones peace of mind that they are respecting and following your wishes after you die
- Ensure unmarried partners and/or step children can inherit
- Minimise the amount of Inheritance Tax your estate will have to pay and maximise your loved ones’ inheritances
- Name trusted guardians to look after your children
- Set aside money for disabled and vulnerable family members
- Set up trusts to control how money and property is passed on and used
- Control what will happen to family businesses
- For farming and agricultural families, make sure the family farm or estate is passed on according to your wishes to safeguard its future
- Avoid disputes amongst your family over your wishes or what they think they are entitled to
- Decide who should look after your pets
- Decide who should manage your final affairs (executors)
- Set out your funeral wishes
What age should I make a will?
For adults over the age of 18, any age is the ‘right’ age to make a will. Even if you feel too young, it is good to be prepared for anything. You should always consider making a will upon any significant life event or change such as:
- You are approaching retirement
- You are about to have a baby
- You are about to buy a property
- You and your partner have decided to move in together (especially if you are unmarried)
- You have just got married or entered into a civil partnership
- You are about to get a divorce or dissolution
- You or a loved one have been diagnosed with a serious or life-shortening illness
You should also consider updating your will every few years to ensure it still reflects your true wishes.
What happens if I don’t make a will?
If you do not make a will, your estate will be administered according to the Rules of Intestacy. Only a certain group of family members can inherit under the Rules:
- If you have a spouse or civil partner, they will automatically inherit the majority of your estate. However, unmarried partners cannot inherit
- If you have children, they may also automatically inherit if your estate is worth more than £250,000. Step children cannot inherit
- If you do not have a spouse, civil partner or children, certain other relatives will inherit or (if you have no other family) all your money and property may pass to the Crown.
- The Rules do not allow any money to be left to friends or charities
Additionally, the Rules of Intestacy do not aim to make your estate tax efficient so your loved ones may have to pay more inheritance tax.
Do I have to make a will if I want to leave everything to my partner?
Many people assume that if they do not leave a will, their partner will just inherit everything. However, this is only true in certain circumstances.
For instance, only spouses and civil partners can inherit under the Rules of Intestacy. If you and your partner are not married or in a civil partnership, they can only inherit if you leave a will naming them a beneficiary.
Additionally, if you have children and your estate is worth more than £250,000, they will automatically inherit a proportion of your estate if you do not leave a will.
You also need to consider what will happen to your partner’s estate after they die (or your estate in case they die first). Planning for the future as a couple could make your estates more tax efficient and often this will involve making a will.
Can I disinherit my child?
Yes, the law allows you to leave your money and property to whomever you like. This includes leaving your child out of your will, for example, if you do not have a good relationship or you feel other relatives need the money more.
However, you should be aware that it is sometimes possible for family members to make a claim for inheritance against your estate after you die. These claims are often unsuccessful because our law views the wishes of the person who made the will to be extremely important. Regardless, you can reduce the risk of inheritance claims by making your wishes clear during your lifetime, for example, by including a letter of wishes with your will and talking to your family about your choices.
Can I give gifts to my friends in my will?
Yes, you are free to leave your money to whomever you like. However, be aware that if you have close relatives who expect to receive something, they may decide to challenge your will after you pass away. Luckily, it is very difficult to challenge a will, so as long as you are very clear about your wishes while you are alive (such as explaining your intentions to your family and leaving a letter of wishes with your will), you should have nothing to worry about.
Is my will still valid if I get divorced?
Your will is still valid if you get a divorce, however, any provision you have made for your ex-partner will be automatically removed.
If you want to continue providing for your ex-partner and/or you have a new partner to whom you are not married or in a civil partnership, you will need to make a new will.
Be aware that your ex-partner will remain a beneficiary until the moment the divorce becomes final. So, if you want to remove them from your final wishes, consider making a new will while you are still in the process of divorcing.
Why do I need a solicitor to make a will?
It is possible to make a DIY will but they carry many risks. To be legally valid, a will must fulfil strict legal requirements that can easily be botched. As part of our will writing service, we will ensure your will adheres to these legal requirements, reducing the risk of challenge later on. Will disputes tend to be extremely expensive and lengthy so they are worth taking steps to avoid them during your lifetime.
Other reasons to ask a solicitor to write your will include:
- We can provide detailed tax planning advice to make your estate as tax efficient as possible
- If your estate is complex, involving assets such as properties, investments and businesses, it is important to seek legal advice about the best way to structure your estate to ensure it is handled properly after you die and reduce tax
- If you want to set aside money for young children or vulnerable loved ones, you will need advice on the best way to do this, such as setting up trusts
- If you own property overseas or a business that operates in other countries, we can provide advice on the inheritance and tax implications of this
- If you suspect that your family might argue over your will after you die, we can provide advice on taking steps to reduce the impact of disputes
- Solicitors are insured and heavily regulated, so if there are any issues with your will, you can ask them to cover any losses