A Will is the only way to be certain that your assets will be distributed the way you want after you die. This helps avoid potential arguments between your family members over your personal assets. A Will is particularly important because it’s one of the few legal documents where lawyers and courts won’t be able to ask you to explain or clarify your intentions when it comes to be used! It’s a definitive statement of your intentions when it comes to your wishes for both your assets as well as your burial.
If you die without a Will (known formally as “dying intestate”), the court decides how your estate and assets are to be distributed and this is usually done according to a strict legal formula. The court appoints a trustee executor who will distribute your assets according to this formula, even though this may not be how you would have chosen to give away or divide your assets. For example, you may wish to give gifts to particular friends, children, grandchildren or relatives. These wishes are not carried out by the government trustee if you do not have a Will which specifies this.
In addition, if you die intestate, there are additional fees and taxes charged to your estate which you would not necessarily have if you die with a Will in place. This means your heirs wind up receiving less and more of your hard earned money goes unnecessarily to fees and taxes which may otherwise be avoided.
Having a Will is also important as it allows you to appoint an executor that you know and trust to make sure that they can help distribute your assets and arrange your affairs after you die.
It’s usually best to write a Will as early as possible, simply because you never know when the worst might happen. Here are some stages-in-life when you should consider making or amending your Will:
Wills are a significant and essential part of your financial planning and should not be something that is left until the last minute nor left unfinished.
You should gather together a complete list of all your assets, this includes:
You should also make a note of your liabilities such as outstanding mortgages or loans. When you leave a specific asset, you may need to decide if any associated liabilities are to be included as part of the gift or whether it is to be given free of any loan or taxes.
Bear in mind that the usual process for distribution of assets in a Will is that first, specific named gifts go to specific named recipients. The executors then work out the total value of everything else you own, minus any liabilities and taxes. What’s left over is called your “residuary estate”, which is divided up in accordance with your Will.
In legal terminology, dying without a valid Will in place is called dying “intestate”. The legal procedures for dealing with your assets become more complicated, time-consuming and costly – and may cause more distress and hardship to your family.
This may not necessarily be how you would want your belongings to be distributed. Your friends and other family members receive nothing and it can greatly increase the emotional stress caused to your loved ones.