The Bible mentions the word inheritance in more than 200 scriptures. Just one of these is Proverbs 13:22 which says “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children”. We are called to be good stewards and having a will is one of the ways we can do this.
All the clients I meet have one thing in common; they wish to leave what they have worked for to their loved ones or specific organisations or purposes. The thought of it ending up going to the wrong people or state coffers is not a pleasant one. Giving some thought to estate planning now can give you peace of mind and ensure things are easier for your executors and loved ones after your passing.
So-how does having a will help?
Whether your estate (everything you own) totals a few thousand pounds or a few million, there are some very important reasons to have a will in place. Do not make the mistake of believing everything will “fall the right way”, it is a huge risk to take.
Name your executors! These are the appointed people that you choose in advance to deal with your affairs and distribute your estate. They may be beneficiaries and very often are one and the same. It is always worth having a ‘reserve’ executor, in case the main ones have died or are unable to act.
There are several major advantages in naming executors within a will. If there is no will, somebody will have to be appointed and this may be a person you would not choose yourself! Or it could be handed on to a professional which could cost thousands when it could have been dealt with possibly quite simply. It gives you time to discuss with your executors and check they are happy to represent you and for them to learn more of your affairs e.g. passwords, where the will is etc.
Did you know… If you are named as an executor in the UK and have taken out the “grant of probate” in your name after a death, you personally become responsible for paying the debts and taxes of the deceased and distributing the state properly. If you are named as an executor, do research this well and seek professional advice where needed. You do not want to end up with a huge tax bill or disgruntled beneficiaries!
Guardians… Do you have children under 18? An essential part of making a will for younger couples is the appointment of guardians. This allows time to talk about it with the relevant people in advance and give it some considered thought. If both parents die while children are under 18, where there is no will, a court may have to decide who to appoint and children may be split up which most parents would seek to avoid.
Did you know… Mothers automatically have ‘parental responsibility’. Fathers who are married to the mother also have it but if not married to the mother, it only applies to children born 4 May 2006 onwards.
Beneficiaries – who gets what, when there is no will?
Again, to have a will written means you can nominate your beneficiaries with the amounts or percentages you choose. e.g. you may choose to leave all to your husband / wife and then down to your children whilst possibly leaving set gifts for charity and / or grandchildren. If no will, then it falls under ‘intestacy law’ which may go in a different direction to where you intended.
For example Mr Jones dies without a will, leaving a wife and two grown children. The estate he leaves is valued at £600,000. Mrs Jones is entitled to the first £250,000. She would then be entitled to half the remaining amount (£175,000) and the children would have the other £175,000 between them. This could cause some difficulties for Mrs Jones in practice. With a will, Mr Jones could have left the whole estate to his wife in the first instance with children inheriting after her death.
Did you know… t sounds really obvious but a will is only applicable after death. What is expected to be inherited may not even exist after the person dies. Money and or cash assets may have already been used up e.g. care home fees.
Did you know… Marriage invalidates a previous will? Mr and Mrs Smith make wills leaving all to each other and then down to children on second death. Mrs Smith dies and five years later Mr Smith remarries. He does nothing to address his will as he believes it to still be valid. He dies after one year. His new wife ends up inheriting all or the lion’s share of the estate and his children are left nothing or a very reduced share of the estate. He could have avoided this by making a new will after remarriage.
There is so much more I could cover but space does not allow. I hope this article has been useful for you and food for thought. If you have enjoyed reading it, I would love to hear from you. Likewise, if you have any questions about estate planning matters, please contact me.
Let’s be good stewards of what God has given us.
This article has been written by Liane Papadopoulos, who is an Estate Planner in the UK. Liane is an affiliate of the Society of Will Writers and heads up Western Wills Professional Will Writing Service.