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Do I need to make a will? I hear this question a lot and the simple answer is, yes, you probably do. If you are an adult and you have a child and/or possessions that you value, then by making a will you can ensure that your wishes will be carried out when you die. Firstly, it's worth understanding what thew law says if you die intestate (without making a will).  
 
Married couples 
If you are married and your estate is worth less than £270,000, your spouse will receive everything. If your estate is worth more than that and you have children, your spouse receives £270,000 absolutely and half of the remaining estate; your children will receive the other half of the excess over £270,000. If you don't have children, your spouse receives everything. 
 
Single people/non married couples 
There is no legal protection for you if you are co-habiting. As there is no formal legally recognised partnership, if you have no will, your estate will be distributed according to the laws of intestacy and your partner will not be entitled to anything. If you have children, your estate will be shared between them. If you have no children, but your parents are still alive, your estate will go to them. If you have no surviving parents, it would get shared between your siblings, then your nieces/nephews, then grandparents, then Uncles or Aunts, then cousins, then The Crown. 
 
If you have children 
Your will enables you to appoint people you trust, sho share your values, beliefs and ethics to become guardians of your children if the worst happened. Without legally appointing people in this way, there is a risk that your children could end up living with guardians appointed by the court, who may not have been your choice, had you made a choice. 
 
As you can see, it's absolutely crucial, if you are single, cohabiting or if you have children under 18 that you make a will. So many people I see have complex family situations where they have strong views about particular family members not receiving an inheritance from them. Unless you make a will, the law will not consider family dynamics and will distribute in the standard way. 
 
As well as choosing who looks after your children and who benefits from your estate, a correctly drafted will ensures that these decisions are made as quickly as possible and as tax efficiently as possible. 
 
If you have made a will 
Your will is a document that should be reviewed as you have a change in circumstance or every five years. Many people make their will, put it in a drawer and nvere look at it again. This can sometimes be worse than not making a will at all. Another question I hear frequently is 'When should I review my will' - here are my main prompts: 
 
Marriage - If you get married, unless you will included an 'in contemplation of marriage' clause, your will is now invalid - it MUST be re-written. 
Divorce - Unlike marriage, a divorce does not invalidate your will, but legally, your ex-spouse is treated as though they have pre-deceased you. This means they won't act as your executor or benefit from your estate, but inless you have built in contingency, it could mean that you die intestate or partially intestate. You are strongly advised to review your will. 
Separation - Unlike divorce, this relationship status is not legally recognised, so unless you change your will your ex-spouse will still benefit from your estate. 
Having Children - Arguable the most important reason for making a will - making a choice over who cares for, loves, nurtures and supports your chilkdren into adulthood 
Buying a property - This is probably your biggest asset and a will can ensure that it goes to who you want it to. 
Receiving an inheritance - This can change your own financial situation, tax advice may be required and a will can accommodate this. 
Family fall-outs - Sadly this happens more than you think and non-provision clauses can be included in your will and a professional willwriter will always make copious notes on the reasons for their exclusion 
People you have appointed have died - It's common for parents to be appointed as Executors and Guardians and as they get older, they may be less able to take on these roles or they may die. 
Business Assets - When you write your will you may have been employed. If you start a business, depending on how it's set up, this may need to be inclided in your will - a profesisonal will writer will be able to advise you on this. 
 
If you have been considering making or reviewing your will, always seek advice from an expert. Heritage Estate Planning are full members of the Institute of Professional willwriters and offer free consultation meetings. Please get in touch if you have any questions or would like to book a meeting. 
 
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