By Caroline Reid-Watts, Financial Planning Executive at Montgomery Charles
Death can be a tricky subject to broach, so we’re just going to dive right in here and talk about it, and what happens afterwards (in a strictly non-spiritual sense!).
Have a think: What do you want to happen to your money when you die? Who do you want to see wearing your jewellery, checking the time on your watch, admiring your carefully chosen paintings?
You might have thought a little about what happens to your possessions when you’re no longer around, you might have a very good idea of who should inherit what. You might not have considered it at all and feel like it can all be sorted out when you’re gone.
The important thing is to write a valid will, this will allow you to decide what happens before you die, and allows your heirs to make decisions after you die.
Everything you leave when you die is known as your estate, you might not think this amounts to such a huge sum but when you add the value of your bank accounts, investments, cars, belongings and your house it soon adds up.
What’s in a Will
If you write a will you can do whatever you like, you can leave everything you own to the cat if you wish. Although, you should know, wills can be disputed through the courts if you’ve failed to make reasonable provision for somebody important.
Interestingly, after a death, if all the people who are inheriting under a will agree to change it, the change can be implemented.
If you don’t write a will, on your death you will be “intestate” and your estate will be subject to the “laws of intestacy” – these have never been disputed successfully; in court or anywhere else.
Briefly, these rules pass the first £250,000 of your estate to your spouse and split the remaining estate between your spouse and your children.
If you’re not married everything is split between your children. If you don’t have any children everything is passed to your spouse.
If you have neither living children or spouse there is a strict hierarchy of
then your parents,
then half siblings,
then uncles and aunts,
then half uncles and aunts who will inherit your estate.
Failing any of these relatives your estate will pass to the crown.
We’re not joking, there is a government department who sells “bona vacantia” estates (quite literally vacant land), and the money goes to the government. Unless you’re in the Duchy of Cornwall, when it goes to Prince Charles; or the Duchy of Lancaster, when your money goes to the Queen.
Who inherits and who doesn’t?
Now, this is quite important:
Nowhere, on that list of relatives above, do you see step children.
You do see your parents, who might be old and paying care home fees, ahead of your brothers and sisters.
You see the half brother you’ve never met from your father’s first marriage ahead of the aunt who was like a second mother to you.
You also don’t see the special necklace being passed to your favourite niece, your grandad’s war medals being passed as your promised to your brother or that huge table you’ve been threatening not to leave to your nephew for the last 20 years as intended.
This is a little rose tinted glasses but the point is, these rules are absolute. If you die intestate there is no flexibility.
Rules is rules.
And how do you regain control?
Write a valid will.
It’s quite simple really, for a will to be valid these are the rules
- It must have been made voluntarily.
- It must be in writing
- You must have the mental capacity to make the will and understand the effect it will have
- It must be signed by the testator (you)
- It must be witnessed, signed and dated by two other “disinterested” people (not people who will inherit)
You can buy a will writing kit for about £10 on the high street or you can approach a solicitor, clearly a solicitor will cost more but you will have the peace of mind that the will is definitely valid.
It’s your estate
So you know what you need to do now, if you want to have a say in who inherits what, you need to write a valid will.
If you want your heirs to have a say in who inherits what, you need to write a valid will.
If you’re perfectly happy for your estate to be distributed according to the strict and unbending laws of intestacy, then don’t write a will… but if you change your mind; write a valid will.