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Making a Will


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Will Questionnaire


Making a Will

“Death is not the end. There remains the litigation over the estate.”

     - Ambrose Bierce, 1842 - 1914



If you die without making a valid Will, you are said to be “intestate”.  According to the Office of National Statistics around 60% of people in England and Wales die intestate, giving rise to around 40,000 intestacies a year.  What does this mean in practice?  Let’s take a recent real-life example from our own files (the names have been changed to preserve anonymity):

John and Mary were married for 30 years.  They didn’t have any children and they owned a modest house together.  Mary had a favourite niece, Geraldine, who was like a daughter to her.  Geraldine was not very well off - she was an unemployed single parent with two young children.  John and Mary told Geraldine on several occasions that she could have their house when they died; they meant it, and they knew they needed advice from a solicitor to make sure this would happen, but they just never got around to it.


Then Mary died, unexpectedly, aged 57.  All of her property including her share of the house passed automatically to John.  Two years later John died.  All of his property, and all of Mary's inherited property, went to John's sister, Hilda, according to the laws of intestacy.  John and Mary never liked Hilda - they hadn’t spoken for over 20 years.  Geraldine still lives in her council house.

These mini-tragedies are played out all over the UK on a daily basis because people don’t make Wills.  As solicitors, we often wonder why this is the case.  What would people rather spend two or three hundred pounds on?  A weekend in Scarborough?  A new DVD player? 

Making a Will can actually be a very positive experience.  It gives you the chance to take stock of your affairs and put them in order.  It gives you peace of mind, like an insurance policy, but unlike an insurance policy you don’t have to renew it every year.

It’s also an opportunity to be generous, and to be remembered.  You can give away your money to whoever you like, within reason, and perhaps make a real difference to a young person or your favourite charity by making a bequest.

This is a good time to think about the possibility of saving your estate inheritance tax.  We are experts at this and have saved our clients hundreds of thousands of pounds in unnecessary tax over the years.  We even have our own independent financial advisers in-house, who can advise in more complex or high-value estates.  Of course, if you would like to leave your money and property to the government, that is up to you.  Some people actually do (though not in our experience!). 

If you have a complicated family, e.g. a second or third marriage with children from each, then it is particularly vital to make a Will.  It is also a good idea in such circumstances to appoint professional executors.  We are always happy to accept such appointments.

Dying without a Will is not the only situation in which intestacy can occur.  It can sometimes happen even when there is a Will: for example when the Will is not valid, or when it is valid but the beneficiaries die before the testator (the person making the Will).  Intestacy can also arise when there is a valid Will but some of the testator’s assets were not disposed of by the Will. This is called a ‘partial intestacy’. Intestacy therefore arises in all cases where a deceased person has failed to dispose of some or all of his or her assets by Will, hence the need to review your Will every now and then.

But why use a solicitor?  Making a Will is easy isn’t it?  Well, it is a truism that the home-made Will is “the toast of the legal profession”.  A lot of solicitors make more money out of disputed Wills than they do out of Will-writing and in many cases the Will is home-made.  Enough said.

Our Wills & Probate solicitors have an outstanding reputation for their expertise in this area of law. They will guide you through the Will-making process in a constructive, friendly and professional way.  You will feel much better afterwards, honestly!  Do it today.  You can start by completing our Will Questionnaire (follow the link to the left) and sending it to us.

Bells Solicitors Limited.   Registered in England and Wales no. 07827988.   Authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.   SRA number 569030.   VAT registration number 137595285