Here at Higgins Miller, we specialise in family law, and that means helping people to cope with some of the most difficult and stressful life events they are ever likely to face. Issues such as adoption, divorce and children disputes can be legally complex and emotionally demanding, and we work with our clients to offer a combination of expert advice and emotional support. This is particularly appropriate when dealing with wills and probate, and our experience with clients who haven’t written a will has reinforced just how important writing a will in 2022 is.
There are several reasons why writing a will in 2022 is so important but in simple terms, they all boil down to being able to control what happens to the things you leave behind when you die. Writing a will in 2022 is a way to ensure that the people closest to you are looked after when you die, and that you don’t die ‘intestate’. Intestate is a word that refers to a state of affairs that means that the estate you leave behind is divided according to strict legal conditions, with no attention being paid to what you might have wanted, or what might be best for your family.
If you have a spouse or civil partner and no children, for example, then the whole of any estate will pass to them on your death. This may have been what you had intended anyway, but modern relationships are often more complex, and dying without writing a will in 2022 can mean that these complexities have huge unforeseen effects on the way your estate is divided. You may, for example, have separated from your spouse at the time of your death, and be living with someone else, but not writing a will in 2022 will mean that it’s the estranged spouse who gets your estate, rather than your new partner. Indeed, the issue of people who live together without getting married or entering a civil partnership is one of the more compelling arguments for writing a will in 2022. Many people assume that someone they cohabit with for an extended period of time becomes their ‘common law partner’ and will automatically inherit upon their death. The truth, however, is that there is no such thing, in law, as a ‘common law partner’. If you die in circumstances such as these without writing a will in 2022 then your partner will only be entitled to those parts of the estate which were acquired in both names, such as joint tenancies or bank accounts. The rest of the estate, from the family home downward, will pass onto any children or, failing that, grandchildren or other relatives. Even if the person who dies intestate has been estranged from their family for a matter of years or decades, the rules of intestacy will still apply. In simple terms, dying without writing a will in 2022 will mean that your estate is divided by the government and any live-in partner runs the risk of being left with nothing.
In some cases such as this, the partner in question may be able to bring a claim under the Inheritance Act 1975, if they think they can demonstrate that they are a person for whom the deceased would have reasonably been expected to make provision for in any will. Making such a claim is a long, stressful and expensive process, however, involving input from expert inheritance solicitors experienced in dealing with cases of this kind. Even if the surviving partner is successful in making a claim of this kind, they could still find that they have to pay inheritance tax (IHT) on the money inherited, whereas a spouse or civil partner would be exempt.
Even if you die intestate with a spouse or civil partner the manner in which your estate is divided will be decided by the rules rather than your own wishes. If you have children, for example – whether from this relationship or a previous relationship – then only the first £250,000 of the estate will pass automatically to your spouse or civil partner, together with 50% of anything over £250,000. The remainder of the estate will be divided equally between your children.
Writing a will in 2022 is the only way to be truly certain of exactly how your estate will be divided. You can work with experts like those at Higgins Miller to leave your estate in the most tax-efficient manner, for example, and to choose exactly how much each of your children will receive. In some cases, this will involve creating a Trust, which is a legal device controlling how your estate is handed over following your death. Under a Trust, for example, a large amount left to a child can be passed to them in installments over a period of years, minimising the risk of them wasting a large windfall. It could also be used to stipulate that a spouse or civil partner is entitled to live in the family home, but that it will definitely be passed on to your children after the spouse or partner dies. Another good reason for creating a Trust when leaving money or possessions behind is that it protects the contents of the Trust Fund from being targeted in future divorce proceedings, for example, if the beneficiary subsequently marries and then divorces.
If you want to find out more about writing a will in 2022 please call us on 0161 429 7251 or email us at [email protected]. We’ve recently passed our Cyber Essential accreditation, something which demonstrates our forward-thinking attitude and determination to remain ahead of the competition. The first 20-minute appraisal is provided free of charge, and we’ll give you the first appointment for a fixed fee, so you don’t have to worry about how much our advice is going to cost. If you want to explore our wider charging system then please take a look here.