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The Dangers Of Not Writing A Will

Death is an uncomfortable subject, often swept under the carpet and only discussed at length when absolutely necessary. That said, preparing for the inevitable is an intrinsic part of life. Nobody wants their loved ones to be deprived of the assets to which they are entitled. Hence, the importance of writing a will, which many people put off due to fear of having to make difficult decisions regarding their estate. 

There are multiple adverse consequences of not writing a will; here are just a few. 

Your Estate Will Be Shared According To Intestacy Rules

Any individual who fails to make a valid will dies ‘intestate’, meaning their estate will be shared out according to the rules of intestacy. Under intestacy rules, only married or civil partners and other close relatives, such as children, can legally inherit property and possessions. In the UK, your spouse will receive up to the value of £270,000 along with personal possessions. Any remaining assets are divided equally between the spouse and children of the deceased. If the deceased was not married or in a civil partnership, their assets are divided equally between their children. Unfortunately, surviving unmarried/non-civil partners are not protected by intestacy law and will not be entitled to receive anything following the death of a partner, regardless of how long they have cohabited. 

Lack Of Security For Minors

For many parents, the safety and well-being of their children, should the unthinkable happen, is one of the most vital driving factors for writing a will. Your will provides legal protection and guidelines regarding the guardianship of your underage children until they reach the age of 18. Appointed guardians have parental responsibility and are in charge of decisions concerning housing arrangements, education and medical care. If there is no valid will and no surviving parent, the court will appoint a suitable guardian for your underage children, which may not align with your preferences. 

Family Conflict

Even if a valid will is in place, there is no guarantee that family conflict won’t ensue due to differing opinions. Wills can be contested if an individual has reason to believe that a will was created under unlawful circumstances, including undue influence or coercion. That said, disputes over poorly written wills and intestacy can tear a family apart, particularly if friends and relatives believe that the inheritance proceedings do not reflect what the deceased would have wanted. Furthermore, the family of the deceased cannot contest an intestacy ruling in the same way that one may contest a will. However, individuals have the right to make a legal claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 if they believe they have been left without “reasonable financial provision”. Making a valid, legally watertight will provides all of your beloved family members with their fair share according to your wishes. 

Extra Legal Costs

Every legal procedure, from probate research to guardianship applications, takes time and money. Considering your loved ones will be grieving, making proceedings as cheap and straightforward as possible for them is advisable. 

It is also worth considering tax loopholes. According to intestacy rules, your divided assets will be subject to inheritance tax (IHT). However, some gifts are exempt from inheritance tax, especially if you live for a further seven years after the gift was given - this is known as the seven year rule. Gifts given between three and seven before your death are subjected to “taper relief” and will be taxed at 40%. Writing a will is the most effective method of reducing your inheritance tax bill; for example, suppose you want to name specific beneficiaries such as charities. In that case, the gifts you make to a qualifying charity during your lifetime or as stated in your will are exempt from inheritance tax.

No Appointed Executor 

A will’s executor is an individual responsible for dealing with the estate and arranging your affairs according to your wishes. Although you can choose whoever you like, the position of executor is generally given to a trusted friend or relative, often a spouse, civil partner, sibling or child - the only legal stipulation is that they must be over the age of 18. If there is no will, an administrator (often the next of kin) will act as the deceased's personal representative.