Bucket (and spade) list – organise your Will before going on a summer holiday

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A Will sets out what should happen to your money, property and possessions (your estate) after you die.  If you die without having made a Will (intestate) your estate is distributed in accordance with the laws of intestacy which are unlikely to coincide with your personal intentions and wishes.  Now is a good time to consider making or updating your Will, before you jet-off for your summer holiday as the difficulties with dying testate are amplified if a death occurs overseas.

The statistics

Recent studies have indicated that an extraordinary 60% of adults in the UK have not made a Will.  It is estimated that one third of the UK population currently dies intestate.  Of those that have made a Will, almost a quarter have never reviewed its terms and over a third have not considered any updates within the last three years.

The most common reason given for not having a Will is apathy; people simply do not get round to doing it or put it off until later in life.  A worrying 11% of people without a Will incorrectly believe that it is of no consequence and assume that their estate will automatically go to the “correct people” on death.

The consequences of not having a Will

As the statistics suggest, planning for the inevitable is a task the majority of people prefer to avoid or defer.  However, putting in place a Will is not necessarily difficult and is one of the most important financial arrangements that can be made during a person’s lifetime, particularly for owners of property, investments or a business or those who have children.

There are numerous reasons why it is beneficial to have a Will, including:

  • avoiding disputes, arguments and bitterness between relatives over the handling of your estate and affairs;
  • ensuring that the right person administers your estate. You are able to select executors under a Will to manage your affairs and may have strong preferences on who is most suitable to do so, particularly if you have a business, property or for specific personal affairs.  If you die intestate, the management of your affairs is placed in the hands of the administrators appointed by the court;
  • If you have not made a Will you cannot control who will inherit your money, property and possessions. Your estate will be distributed according to the complex laws of intestacy which are unlikely to be the same as your personal wishes.  Distribution of your estate will be made in general terms and specific personal bequests will not be met;
  • If you are married with children, your spouse may receive less than you expect. Under intestacy laws, a surviving spouse receives £250,000 plus personal belongings and half of the estate automatically.  The children will inherit the other half of the estate outright or on trust until they reach the age of 18;
  • If you are unmarried, your partner may receive nothing. The rules of intestacy make no provision for cohabiting or unmarried partners.  If you are unmarried, your partner, even if you have lived together for a significant time, has no legal recourse to your share of the property.  If you own the property outright, your partner is likely to lose their home;
  • You can name a guardian for your children under a Will. If both parents die without designating a guardian it falls to the court to make the decision.  Not only is there a risk that the court will not choose the person you would have, the process will certainly be stressful for your children during an already incredibly difficult time;
  • Making a Will gives you the opportunity to save and plan for inheritance tax liability;
  • A Will can record any express personal preferences you may have for funeral or other arrangements after your death; and
  • With no Will setting out your wishes, your partner or children may find themselves contesting the laws of intestacy, resulting in high legal costs, often complex and protracted cases and further emotional distress.

Where there’s a Will, there’s a runway

Passport, ticket, Will is an unlikely holiday checklist.  However, before jetting off this summer, it may be prudent to consider putting in place a Will if you do not have one already or revising your current Will if you have not done so recently.

Many of us are going on more adventurous holidays than ever before, visiting more exotic, potentially dangerous destinations and partaking in riskier adrenalin fuelled activities.  More of us are also spending more time in foreign counties than ever before.  Unfortunately, coupled with the increased number of stamps in our passports, are the amplified risks of something happening to us whilst abroad.  Dying intestate can cause a minefield of paperwork and difficulties for family and dependents, but these issues are compounded when the death occurs abroad.

When a death happens overseas, dependents will need to contend with the laws of a foreign country which may be quite different from the corresponding UK laws.  Dealing with intestacy abroad is even more complex, expensive and highly protracted than dealing with it at home.

Legal advice

Before taking your summer holiday this year, ensure you make or update your Will.  A Will lasts far longer than a sun tan and is an essential step we should all take to safeguard against the future.  Even if you put a basic Will in place before going on holiday covering executors and beneficiaries, the details could be added to and revised later but should the unthinkable happen whilst you are away, a basic Will is preferable to no Will at all.  It is heartbreak enough to lose a loved one but to be unable to carry out a loved one’s wishes because of the lack of a Will is even more devastating.

Bennett Griffin are award winning solicitors based in West Sussex with offices in central Worthing and Ferring.  Our experienced and specialist solicitors offer a comprehensive service and will work with you in an honest, considered and practical manner.  Our wills trusts and probate department is able to advise and assist you in relation to making or reviewing a Will.  Please contact us on 01903 229 999 or by email at info@bennett-griffin.co.uk for more information.

The information contained in this article is for general guidance only and is not intended to be legal advice. Professional advice should always be taken on the application of the law in any particular situation.