Wills are for everyone, not just for the rich and famous

According to research by unbiased.co.uk in October 2017, over 60% of the UK population do not have a Will.  This statistic hides the disparity in the age of those without Wills; of those between 18 and 34, only 16% have a Will, as do 28% of those between 35 and 54.

Even the richest stars don’t have Wills

The world mourned in August when singer and songwriting legend Aretha Franklin died at the age of 76 without a Will.  Franklin, who was reportedly worth up to £80m according to some sources, has left behind a complex legal and financial situation in her wake which her four sons will now have to deal with; a process which may take them several years.  This situation is not uncommon in the circles of the super elite.  Amy Winehouse also died without a Will in 2011 – leaving behind a reported worth of over £4m, which was eventually passed to her parents.  But Franklin and Winehouse are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to celebrities who did not have a valid Will, other notables include Michael Jackson (whose Will was contested as being invalid), Prince, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Heath Ledger (whose Will had not been updated to include his daughter), Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, Pablo Picasso, and Rik Mayall to name but a few.  Quite why so many famous singers, in particular, have died without Wills can only be speculated – perhaps they live such busy lives they just never prioritise seemingly mundane tasks as drafting a Will.  However, like most unexciting but necessary jobs, organising a valid Will can save a great deal of stress and hardship at a later date.

What happens when you die without a Will?

Dying without a Will is known as dying intestate.  This means the Rules of Intestacy come into force whereby the inheritance of your estate will be handed down in strict order of priority, regardless of your or anyone else’s wishes, as follows:

  • The surviving spouse or civil partner will receive everything if the estate is worth £250,000 or less
  • If the estate is valued at more than £250,000 and if there are children, the spouse or civil partner will receive any personal chattels and £250,000 and an ‘absolute interest’ in one half of the residue. The children will receive the other half.
  • If there is no surviving spouse or civil partner, but there are children, the estate will be shared equally between them.
  • If there is no surviving spouse or civil partner, and no children, any surviving parents will receive the estate – or if no parents, it will pass to any surviving brothers or sisters.
  • Grandparents, aunts, uncles are the next in line to receive an inheritance.
  • If there is no family at all, the Crown will receive the estate.

As you can see, by not having a valid Will in place when you die, any decisions regarding what happens to your worldly wealth is made for you – and there is a real prospect of familial discord.  Also, by dying intestate, your possessions could end up in the hands of a member of your family to which you would not wish them to be.

Why draft a Will other than to avoid dying intestate?

Wills not only ensure any inheritance is not forced through the Rules of Intestacy, they provide several other benefits including:

  • Allowing you to allocate your money, property, and personal chattels as you wish – you can even gift your pets
  • You can state what you want to happen to your children, should you and your spouse/partner die simultaneously, and name those who you wish to act as guardians
  • The amount of inheritance tax which will be payable can be reduced
  • People outside of your family can be included as beneficiaries
  • You can nominate an ‘Executor’ to act on your behalf once you are gone
  • Any wishes you have regarding how your body will be treated following your death can be included

Wills are invaluable because they represent your true wishes and preferences – avoiding the risk of disputes over your true intentions.  The last thing your family would wish for after your passing is to be embroiled in a legal dispute over what one person believed they stood to receive, which may be in direct contradiction with another loved one.

In conclusion

Wills provide the best way to ensure your wishes are captured while you are alive.  Too many people die having believed they had plenty of time to draw up a Will, because they were young, or in sound health.  But the truth is we are all on borrowed time, never knowing when it is our turn to depart.  However, it is important to remember that Wills are only valuable when they are valid and relevant.  To this end, we recommend you seek the advice of a specialist in the field of Wills and Probate.  A Solicitor will ensure you consider all aspects of what your Will needs to contain and draft a Will that truly encapsulates your needs.

Bennett Griffin are award-winning Solicitors based in West Sussex. From our office in central Worthing 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 can advise and assist you in relation to creating a Will.  Please contact us on 01903 229 999 or by email at info@bennett-griffin.co.uk for more information.

Please note this article does not constitute legal advice.