Quick answers to your questions
If you die without making a will, or if your will is invalid, you die intestate. The management of your estate, your house and any other assets minus all your debts, will be dealt with by administrators appointed by the court.
In some cases, your possessions may go to the Crown, but usually the bulk will go to your spouse if you have one and if you don’t to the nearest blood relative. If no surviving relative can be found, your entire estate goes to the Crown.
Many people assume that their wishes will be carried out because they have discussed it with their loved ones or they often choose to put writing a Will off until later life, however, later may well be too late.
The only way to be certain that your property and possessions will pass to the right people is to write a Will, clearly detailing how you want your family or loved ones to deal with your possessions. This will save them the distress of trying to make difficult decisions while grieving.
While you may be put off by the cost of a professionally written Will, it is the best and safest way to guarantee your wishes are recorded in exactly the way you want and ensures that your Will effectively deals with your estate when you are gone. Most professionals will only be available during office hours, so arranging an appointment at their offices may be inconvenient as well as impersonal. It is usual for a professional to charge an hourly rate, so that the true cost of making a Will is not known at the outset and most will want to appoint themselves as executor in your Will meaning your loved ones will be excluded from dealing with your possessions and carrying out your wishes and your estate will suffer significant additional expense.
Writing a Will yourself may seem the easiest and cheapest way to record your wishes however, the laws surrounding Wills are very specific and strict.
An incorrectly written Will can complicate the administration of your estate and could mean the document does not comply legally and may cause more problems than if you had not made a will. You might save money initially by not using a professional service but any mistakes you make could be stirring up trouble for your family and friends when dealing with your estate on death and ultimately reduce the value of your estate.
Yes. Both of you should make a will even if most of the property is in one name. Making a will allows you to name your spouse as your main beneficiary when you die. In your will you can then decide where your property goes if your spouse dies before you.
If you are not married but are cohabiting (living together as an unmarried couple) it is crucial that you both make a will. There is no automatic entitlement if one of you should die without a will.
The cost of making a Will can vary from a few pounds to several hundred pounds, however, the cheapest is not always the best. It’s important to shop around and find out what you get for your money and to compare the different services on offer.
The Office of Fair Trading (February 2010) found that people can expect to pay around £100 for a professionally drafted Will, however, in the vast amount of cases the Will Writer will be appointed as a professional executor, which means there will be additional costs payable on death for them to deal with your estate.
The executor are the people who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes in accordance with your Will. They will gather together all the assets of your estate. They will be responsible for all the paperwork and payment of debts, taxes, funeral and administration costs out of money from the estate. finally they will pay out any gifts and deal with the transfer of property.
A Trustee is responsible for managing all of the property owned by a trust for the benefit of named beneficiaries.
A trust means that you leave your assets to people you trust (your trustees) who look after these for people you choose (your beneficiaries), this means that your family or anyone else you wish can benefit from your estate without actually owning the assets.
The trust assets stay out of means tested benefits if your beneficiary needs care and upon the death(s) of your beneficiaries or upon another event such as remarriage, the trust assets are distributed to your ultimate beneficiaries.
Family structures can be complex and stressful, so it’s important to have the type of Will in place that best reflects your circumstances and wishes.
Being named as the executor of an estate is an exacting role. It is vital to complete all the tasks required as any mistakes or oversights may make you personally liable, if something goes wrong whether intentionally or not.
The executor is required to look after the interests of the beneficiaries above all else and is legally responsible for carrying out the wishes of the deceased in accordance with the will.
In order to distribute the estate the executors will need to collate a full picture of the value and extent of the estate. Executors are required to make as exhaustive enquires as they are able and deal with all assets within the estate, no matter how small. This can involve carrying out searches with the relevant institutions or placing legal notices in the press and other publications. This can often take months to complete and it is easy to overlook vital steps or to be completely overwhelmed, with little idea of where to turn for help.
Families often underestimate how time-consuming and difficult death can be, and many people will not recognise the complex rules and laws surrounding estate administration. This can be quite overwhelming for the family, especially as they will inevitably be grieving for their loss and coping with other family pressures and everyday life.
The administration of an estate may seem quite straightforward in the beginning however, complicated situations can arise in even the most modest estate.
A bank or solicitor will only take responsibility for your legal and financial obligations. Most charge an hourly rate, and often a percentage of the estate as well, so the true cost of this often impersonal service is not known until right at the end of the process.
There is no requirement in law to appoint a professional executor, and the costs for a professional executor to administer an estate can be high and vary considerably.
The Office of Fair Trading (February 2011) found that for an average estate, professional fees can be between £3,000 and £9,000, which would come directly out of your estate, leaving less for your loved ones.
As one of the most important documents you will ever sign, it is vital your Will is stored safely. When your executor makes an application for probate the original will must be produced to the probate registry. A missing or damaged Will can complicate the administration of your estate, and your loved ones will have the unnecessary worry and expense of trying to locate it or giving evidence to the Court to explain the condition of the document.
Storing your Will at home is often the obvious choice but at home your will is not protected from fire, theft or damage. Your executors may not be able to find it in the “safe place” you have put it or they may be many miles away when the time comes. Storing your Will with Assist Law gives you the confidence that it is in safe hands and accessible without further fees unlike a bank who will charge a fee for each time you want to retrieve it. Solicitors may offer to store your Will for free, but this is because they may want to handle your estate when you have passed.
It is essential you frequently review the contents of your Will and update it as your life circumstances change, for example upon marriage or divorce, becoming parents or grandparents, inheriting money, buying or selling property, or retirement, to name but a few. It is also necessary to keep abreast of changing legislation to ensure your wishes can still be carried out legally.
An out of date Will can cause problems, as the people you intended to benefit may miss out. This may mean claims will be made against your estate, complicating the administration process and causing unnecessary stress and worry.
Lasting Power of Attorney
You can work through the process and set up a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) on your own however, this is a complicated and time-consuming process. The forms are not tailored to your circumstances, and they are not supported by legal advice to ensure they are suitable. Nor do they give you a full understanding of the powers you are granting.
You will also have to pay directly to submit your LPA for registration with the Office of the Public Guardian. It will be rejected if the information is incorrect in any way, and you will be liable to pay to submit it again.
There are many forms on the Internet, but in the same way as trying to set up an LPA without professional help, they are not legally supported, and you don’t have the benefit of specific advice to ensure they are appropriate to your needs.
The forms are available elsewhere free of charge however, it is the content of the forms, and not the forms themselves that is critical. It’s essential you take legal advice so you fully understand the powers you are granting and the impact they could have on you.
A Bank or Solicitor will be able to provide you with the necessary legal advice so you understand the effect of appointing somebody else to look after your affairs, and they will make sure the necessary forms are completed correctly. It will often be necessary to visit the office of the Bank or Solicitor during usual working hours. Many professionals will charge an hourly rate for their service, so the true cost is unknown.
An LPA is not valid until it has been registered at The Office of the Public Guardian, and many professionals will only prepare the LPA itself, and will charge extra for dealing with the registration process.