Making plans for your future is one of the most important financial decisions you can make. Our specialist solicitors have extensive experience of wills and estate planning.
Why do I need a Will?
If you pass away without a Will, then your assets will be distributed in accordance with the statutory rules of intestacy, which provide who is to inherit your estate and the shares they receive (click here to see how your estate will be distributed if you fail to leave a Will). This may not be in accordance with your wishes. Under the intestacy rules, if you have children, your spouse will not necessarily inherit your entire estate. Similarly, an unmarried partner/co-habitee or a step-child will not automatically inherit.
It is therefore sensible to put in place a Will which reflects your wishes as to the distribution of your assets and which takes into account your personal and family circumstances.
Additionally, a Will allows you to appoint the “Executors” of your estate. These are the individuals who are responsible for looking after your estate on your death and ensuring that your wishes are followed. If you fail to appoint your Executors in a valid Will, again the law steps in and nominates who will take on this role – this could be an individual who you may not wish to appoint.
If you have minor children, you would be well-advised to consider and appoint who is to be their legal guardian in their Will if both parents die whilst the child is under the age of 18. Failure to do this can lead to family disputes and may lead to the court appointing an individual to take on this role. It is important to give careful consideration to this as the legal guardian will be the individual making important decisions in your child’s life such as in relation to their education and medical treatment.
Crucially, a well-drafted Will can also serve to minimise the Inheritance Tax which may be due on your estate (click here for further information on Inheritance Tax Planning). In some cases, it may be necessary to incorporate a trust in your Will for minor or disabled beneficiaries or as a protective measure. Where this is the case, we are able to provide ongoing advice as to the management of the trust to ensure your aims in setting up the trust are met.
Why use a solicitor?
Although it is possible to write a Will without the help of a solicitor, the Law Society advise against this. Without the help of an expert there is a real risk that the Will may contain an error or be invalid, which could cause problems for your beneficiaries after your death.
A solicitor will also be able to advise you on how to minimise tax on your death and how to deal with assets such as shares in private family companies or foreign assets.
A number of our clients own assets overseas as a result of which we have developed significant expertise in estate planning where there is an international dimension. We have a thorough understanding of the effects of competing legal systems (in particular the systems in place in France, Spain, Italy and the Middle East) and frequently collaborate with foreign lawyers to achieve the right result for our clients.