An increasing number of disputes over wills are ending up in the courts. These disputes are often bitterly contested and can have a devastating effect on the family unity.
One reason for the increase is that families these days tend to be bigger and more complicated – there can be spouses from first, second and third marriages to take into consideration as well as children from each. Another reason is that more people own homes, and in many cases these have increased in value since they were purchased.
The law offers protection to dependants, who may claim against the estate if they believe they have not been adequately provided for.
The conclusion to draw from all of this is that it is important to make a legally valid and up-to-date will, if you want your estate to be distributed according to your wishes once you’re gone.
The main benefit of making a will is that you can decide who benefits after your death. If you don’t make a will, you are said to have died intestate. This means the people you care about may receive nothing at all. Step-children and live-in partners will receive nothing. If you are married or have a civil partner then the surviving spouse or partner will get up to £450,000 of your estate if there are no children and £250,000 if there are children. This sum is called the statutory legacy.
Another benefit is it can allow you to avoid inheritance tax, which is payable by your estate on all assets over a certain amount (currently £325,000). If you have children, you can stipulate in your will who you would like to be responsible for your children’s upbringing if neither parent is alive.
There are three basic options.
Many high street law firms, and some of the larger firms, do wills and probate work. Writing a will is a relatively inexpensive and simple process. Some firms specialise in disputes over wills.
You should do a bit of research before deciding who is going to write your will. This could include:
If you don't already have a list of prospective lawyers, a good place to start your search is here at Lawyer Locator. You can do a free search to come up with a list of lawyers in your area.
Wills need to be drawn up in such a way that they comply with certain basic formal requirements. Any changes must be properly signed and witnessed. They must take account of the fact beneficiaries might die before the person making the will.
Before writing your will, you should work out:
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