THE IMPORTANCE OF MAKING A WILL
• Dying without a will, will mean that your estate will be distributed according to the ‘rules of intestacy’ (see below). The results may be different to what you would have wished to have happened.
• Unmarried partners and partners who have not registered a civil partnership cannot inherit from each other unless there is a will. A remaining partner may be left with serious financial problems.
• Making a will and taking advice may reduce the amount of tax payable on inheritance.
• If you have children you should make a will so that arrangements for them can be made if either one or both parents die.
TO MAKE THE WILL LEGALLY VALID
• You can write the will yourself, but its advisable to get it checked by a professional to make sure that your will is interpreted according to your wishes.
• For the will to be legally valid it must be made by someone aged18 and over who is of sound mind. It must have been made voluntarily and in writing. It must be signed by the person making the will in the presence of 2 witnesses and signed by the 2 witnesses, in the presence of the person making the will.
• If your circumstances change you should make a new will to reflect those changes or make an official alteration (a codicil). The alteration will require the same process of signing and witnessing. A new will should state that it revokes (officially cancels) all previous wills and codicils. The old will should be destroyed.
• The witnesses and their married partners cannot be left anything in your will.
WRITING THE WILL
The will should contain
• who you want to benefit from the will
• who should look after any children under 18
• who will administer your estate and carry out your wishes after your death (your executor)
• what happens if the people you want to benefit die before you
You should seek legal advice if your will isn’t straightforward. For instance if
• you share a property with someone who isn’t your husband, wife or civil partner
• your permanent home isn’t in the UK
• you own a business
• you wish to leave money or property to a dependent who is unable to care for themselves
• you have a number of family members who may make a claim on your will
WHERE TO KEEP YOUR WILL
You could store your will at home with other important documents, with your bank or solicitor, with a company that offers a ‘storage of wills’ facility, or with the Principal Registry of the Family Division.
For more information contact The Wilkes Partnership.
If there is no surviving married or civil partner, the children of a person who has died intestate inherits the whole estate, divided equally between them, whatever the estate is worth.
If there is a surviving partner, a child only inherits from the estate if the estate is valued at over £250000. The children will inherit in equal shares one half of the value of the estate above £250000 and the other half of the value of the estate above £250000 when the surviving partner dies.
A child whose parents are not married or have not registered a civil partnership can inherit from the estate of a parent who dies intestate. They can also inherit from grandparents or great-grandparents who have died intestate.
Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren
A grandchild or great grandchild cannot inherit from the estate of an intestate person unless either
• their parent or grandparent has died before the intestate person, or
• their parent is alive when the intestate person dies but dies before reaching the age of 18 without having married or formed a civil partnership
Other Close Relatives
Parents, brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews of the intestate person may inherit under the rules of intestacy. However this will depend on whether certain other relatives are alive or dead and the amount of the estate. Other relatives may also have a right to inherit depending on circumstances.
WHO CANNOT INHERIT
Unmarried partners, lesbian or gay partners not in a civil partnership, relations by marriage, close friends and carers all have no right to inherit from someone who dies intestate. However they may be able to apply to court for financial provision from the estate. For instance if someone was living with a person who has died intestate. They must have lived with the person for at least two years immediately before the death. The court may order regular payments or a lump sum payment from the estate or it may order property to be transferred from the estate.
NO SURVIVING RELATIVES
Where there are no surviving relatives, the estate passes to the Crown (bona vacantia).
The Crown can make grants from the estate, so if you have a good reason to apply for a grant you can make a claim.
REARRANGING HOW THE ESTATE IS DISTRIBUTED
The way the property is shared out when someone dies without leaving a will can be rearranged but this must be done with the agreement of all those who would inherit under the rules of intestacy and within two years of the death.
THE PROBATE SERVICE
The Probate Service is part of the Family division of the High Court. It deals with ‘non contentious’ probate business (where there is no dispute about the validity of a will or entitlement to take a grant.) It issues grants of representation.
The Probate Service is currently made up of the principal Registry in London, 11 District Probate Registries and 18 Probate Sub-Registries situated throughout England and Wales. There are also a number of Probate offices situated in a room in a court or a local authority building which allow personal applicants to attend to swear the oath.
For more information contact The Wilkes Partnership.