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Planning Retirement Online

Have the will to make a Will!

November 2016

last will and testament

Throughout the winter we will see big pushes from both the government and also legal firms encouraging everyone to make a will.

It seems that over half of adults in the UK still have not written will; or around 27 million people.

So what happens when they die? Well if you pass away without leaving behind a will, the word used is intestacy.  When this is the case and you die as what is termed as intestate, then any assets you have are clearly distributed according to the law, set down in 1925 under the Administration of Estates Act.

Briefly, if you have children, and are married or have a civil partner, then  the husband, wife or partner keeps all the personal possessions (termed as chattels), whatever their value, plus up to £250,000 of all other assets (including property).

The rest of your assets will be distributed with half going again to the husband, wife or partner and the other half being equally divided between the surviving children.

But of course there are so many variations on this, and the act states a whole range of situations and how property and assets are distributed among a wide range of other relatives.

However, there are two very important points to be considered here. First, if you are cohabiting with having a civil partnership in place, then your partner will not be entitled to anything at all. Secondly, if no relations can be round that fit in with the Act, then all your assets will go to the Crown. This doesn’t mean Her Majesty will pop round and clear your bank balance, but it does mean that the government will claim everything you had.  In recent years the Treasury has claimed £53 million and £76 million from people who have died intestate, without a will.

Many people are put off from making a will because of the difficult language used. But this is improving and a will can be very simple indeed. That said, wills can also be upturned or misunderstood if the wording is not clear and watertight; and that is why most experts suggest preparing a will with the help of a solicitor. That way you can be sure that the will clearly shows what you want and will not be open to challenge or even declared invalid...this can certainly happen if certain aspects aren’t cover.

Also be carefully if choosing internet or other template wills. Some are excellent and totally valid, but some are a disaster; there is one that was circulating before being removed that said you only needed one witness (you need two); and other errors.

In today’s electronic age, it probably won’t be long before wills become fully electronic...although hackers could of course have a field day. But today even with online wills, you will find the service includes sending you a full hard copy of the document for you to keep.

Once you have made a will, it is also important that it is found when you die...there are many dramatic plays and books based on not finding a will easily.

It is not a good idea to store a will in a bank deposit box as this creates a Catch 22 situation. The bank won’t be allowed to open a deposit box until the executor named in the will is given permission by a court to manage your affairs; and this won’t be done without a will clearly naming the executor. Very complicated!

Many people leave their will with the solicitor who prepared it; most legal companies offer this service and some will offer it for free. Will writing services sometimes offer to store wills for an extra charge, but there could be concern here on what would happen if the company goes out of business; changes its name or address or other aspects which you may have missed or certainly of which your executors may not be aware.

You can of course keep the will yourself, as long as it is somewhere safe and accessible; and the Probate Service in England and Wales offer storage of wills for around £20. This can be difficult to retrieve though if you wish to alter the will at a later time.

Wherever you keep the will, it is vital that your executors at least know where to find it. Make this clear and if you change the place of storage, again let them know.

Making a will is not a fun subject, but it really is important not just for you, but to help your relations and friends as well. The last thing they will want when they are grieving your loss is to have a hassle on finding and sorting out your will.

It is a serious subject, but for some light relief, there are many funny stories about will making; a few that might bring a smile to your face are on The Will Site.

There is a lot of information on making a will online, including from Age UK.

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