Percy Walker, Q&A - Wills
Why should I make a Will?
There are lots of reasons why you should make a Will but probably the most important reason is that if you don’t, then the Intestacy Rules take effect. This means that you have no choice over who inherits your assets. Broadly and depending on the value of your estate after the payment of your debts and expenses (including funeral costs) your spouse/civil partner will get all your belongings and all your estate. If you have children, they will get the first £322,000, and half of the remainder, with the other half shared equally between your children (or theirs if they have died). If not, your estate will go to your parents, or other relatives (there are rules on who) and if you have none of those, then to the government.
If you are cohabiting, then contrary to what many people might think, without making a Will your cohabiting partner has no right to inherit your assets on your death (unless you own property jointly. You may also have nominated them as a beneficiary of life policies and/or for discretionary pension benefits).
I am divorcing and so my ex will not get anything
Actually, that might not be entirely true. If you have made a Will, then when you get Decree Absolute (which is the final step in the divorce process) any gift to a former spouse or civil partner is treated as if they have died on the date of Decree Absolute, and the gift to them fails. If you have appointed a former spouse/civil partner to be an executor, they can no longer act so you will need to check if you have appointed substitute executors.
If you hold a house as a joint tenant and die before your former spouse/civil partner then they are still entitled to your share of the property unless you have dealt with this as part of the divorce process. If you do not want that to happen, then you need to “sever the joint tenancy”, which means that your half of the property is dealt with under your Will or Intestacy, and their share of the property is dealt with under theirs. You do not need to wait until the divorce process is finalised, but it would be sensible to get legal advice on the advantages and disadvantages of doing so. Your former spouse/civil partner does not need to agree to the severance, but it is preferable to ask them to sign an acknowledgement to prove that they have received the notice. It is also worth reviewing any nominations of life policies and pension benefits you may have made.
I am getting married to my long-time partner, so I don’t need to make a new Will
Unfortunately not. If you have made a Will and then get married, the marriage revokes (i.e. cancels) the previous Will, even if you have lived together for many years, unless that Will is said to be specifically made in contemplation of that marriage. Again, there are rules on this.
I can make my own Will, I don’t need to pay a solicitor to prepare one
You can of course, but the laws on making and signing a Will are complicated, and without the help of an expert such as a solicitor, there is a real risk that you could make a mistake which could cause problems for your family and friends after your death.