Whilst there is no legal requirement to make a will and you don’t have to make one if you don’t want to, wills and probate solicitors can help you to make arrangements in advance to ensure that when you die your property goes to the people you want it to go to. If you don’t bother, then your assets will be distributed according to the law rather than according to your wishes and in some cases this may mean that the Crown can make a claim.
Wills and probate solicitors can help you to ensure that your loved ones are taken care of according to your wishes and in particular can assist you :
in deciding how your assets are shared – if you die without making a will the law says who gets what and if there are no close relatives the Crown takes everything
if you and your partner are not married (whether or not of the same sex) you can make provision for your partner who otherwise could receive nothing
if you’re divorced then you can decide whether to leave anything to your former spouse – divorce nullifies gifts to an ex-spouse made in pre-divorce wills
to take advantage of inheritance tax planning and reduce potential taxation your estate
You do not have to use a wills and probate solicitor to prepare the papers. It can be done by yourself alone or by using a DIY kit available on the internet or by use of one of the many non-lawyer firms that advertise for your business. Before making any decisions on the way forward just ask yourself who you would most trust to put together the paperwork so that it is in accordance with your wishes and who is most likely to get it right in order that the documents are valid and not void?
It may come as a surprise to note that wills and probate solicitors are generally no more expensive than a non-qualified firm who tend to add on and charge for substantial ‘extras’. In addition there are many pitfalls for the unwary who deal with matters on a ‘do it yourself’ basis including:-
The signature and execution of the document must be carried out exactly according to the law failing which the document is void thereby allowing the Crown to claim the assets in certain circumstances. This is one area that gives rise to copious amounts of contested litigation in the civil courts and should always be carried out with professional guidance.
Many wills fail to dispose of all of the assets and again this can in certain circumstances leave it open for the Crown to claim those assets that fail to be properly allocated.
A good draftsman will take account of potential changes in the circumstances of the beneficiaries including births, marriages, deaths and divorce, all of which can totally wreck the testators avowed intentions if the will is not sophisticated enough to deal with any or all of them. A family is not a static environment and relationships often change.
Dependents may have a prior claim on the assets of the estate and the draftsman must make thorough enquiries relating to family relationships and the testators responsibilities before putting pen to paper failing which the testator’s intentions may be completely impossible to carry out if a potential dependent decides to take legal action. Certain classes of people cannot simply be ‘cut out’. Sometimes a testator has to compromise to ensure that most of their wishes are possible to carry out.