On 12 May 2014 the Law Society published a press release reporting that almost two out of three Britons have not made a Will and risk leaving a financial nightmare for family members when they die. Dealing with what you want to happen after your death is something we tend to put off, but a little bit of time spent now will save a lot of anxiety and, potentially expense, later.
Those who die without a Will are said to die intestate and the State directs who inherits by applying the Intestacy Rules. These Rules set out a fixed order of priority for who inherits and in what shares. Spouses, children and other family members all feature in the order of priority, but friends, favourite charities and remoter relatives get nothing. More importantly, if you are unmarried, your partner cannot benefit under the Intestacy Rules regardless of how long you may have been living together and whether you have children. An unmarried partner would need to make a claim to the court for financial provision, but this can be costly, time consuming and lead to disputes with the family members who then lose out.
Law Society president Nicholas Fluck had this to say on the findings:-
“It is understandable that most of us are uncomfortable discussing our dying wishes, especially younger people, but you have nothing to lose and your loved ones can have everything to gain if you ensure your affairs are in order. The families of those who die intestate will often use their experience as a cautionary tale of struggling with banks, utility companies and property sales, for example. Don't let that be your family.”
If you do not make a Will, you also miss the opportunity to plan to mitigate inheritance tax (IHT) on your death. The Intestacy Rules are not designed to be efficient from an IHT perspective, and can lead to an IHT bill on death that could have been avoided had advice been taken and your Will structured so as to minimise or prevent such a charge.
Our note below “Why make a Will?” elaborates on the points above and explains why making a Will is so important.