Last Will and Testament - letter with wax sealA will or testament is a legal document designating how and to whom your property will be distributed to upon your death. In your will, you can name one or more persons as an executor to manage the estate until it can be properly distributed to whomever the will designates. The terms will and testament are interchangeable, with both referring to all types of property (both real and personal). In some cases a will can create a trust with the condition of only being accessible upon the death of the testator (the creator of the will).

Creating a will

To create a will, you must be over the age of majority (18) and have testamentary capacity (be of a sound mind). As life can be a series of unpredictable events, creating a will early helps to reduce any risk of interference from unfortunate events. The first step of creating a will is to revoke all previous wills and confirm yourself as the maker of the will. Your will must be signed and dated, usually in the presence of at least two witnesses that are not beneficiaries, and the signature must be placed at the end (anything written after the signature will be ignored).

The importance of these steps cannot be understated, since a will can be ignored or invalidated if the appropriate procedures are not followed. As is the case with many legal documents it’s best to seek the help of a family law solicitor, particularly if your will has specific requests, which can be complicated and tricky to write.

At Foys, our family law solicitors offer a competitive fixed fee for standard wills and also special service for bespoke wills for residents across Doncaster, Retford, Worksop, Clowne, Rotherham, Waterthorpe and Chapeltown.

The law of intestacy

When someone dies without a will, the property of the deceased is distributed under the laws of intestacy. All personal belongings and property, along with the first £250,000 of the estate, are inherited by the closest living married or civil partner (including those that have split informally but not divorced). The remaining estate is then split, half going to the civil or married partner and half divided between any children. Intestacy laws concern only the property of the deceased, and do not cover any other issues arising from the death itself.

Probate

Probate is a process that begins with proving a will to be valid in a court of law. Once this is done probate is granted to the executor, who then has permission to begin distributing inherited property according to the wishes set out in the will. A Grant of Probate also turns the will into a legal instrument that can be used in court if necessary. It can be a complex process that falls largely upon the executor of the will.

Why write a will?

While intestacy laws do exist, often they can lead to undesirable outcomes. Any of your children born under marriage are entitled to an equal share of the remainder of the property, including those from previous partners you are no longer with. Furthermore the loss of a parent figure can throw many families into immense doubt as to the future of their children, something that intestacy does nothing to alleviate. In fact it can make things worse considering the children often receive a smaller share compared to the partners, and they are dependent on whoever has inherited the majority of the estate.

Wills depend upon the testator being of sound mind and under his or her own influence, something that becomes increasingly less certain with time. While many wish to put off writing a will until the last moment, doing so can increase the chances of you being unable to when the time comes.

Inheritance Tax

Inheritance tax is tax on the estate of the deceased. You don’t pay this if the value of your estate is below a £325,000 threshold, and any assets passed on to your spouse or civil partner are exempt from the tax. However, if you do not fulfil either of those criteria, the standard tax rate is 40% charged on everything above the threshold. This can add up to a substantial amount, and crucially if the estate is distributed through intestacy law then it is the children who have to pay the inheritance tax. A will can allow you to direct your estate and reduce the amount of inheritance tax paid. It’s a simple decision but with the tax rate so high it can save your children and relatives both a lot of money and a great deal of stress dealing with it.

Contact the family law solicitors at Foys to create your will

At Foys, our family law solicitors have years of solid experience helping residents across the UK with preparing wills, obtaining grant of probate, distributing a deceased’s estate and advising and preparing trust deeds.

Contact your local Foys Solicitors office:

Doncaster – 01302 327 136
Retford – 01777 703 100
Worksop – 01909 500 511
Clowne – 01246 810 050
Rotherham – 01709 375 561
Sheffield (Waterthorpe) – 0114 251 1702
Sheffield (Chapeltown) – 0114 246 7609

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