Statistics consistently show around two-thirds of adults haven’t made a will, and at least a third of us will die without one. If that happens, to your property if you don’t have one? It will be shared out according to the ‘rules of intestacy’. That’s handy, isn’t it? ‘If I don’t have a will then the law will make sure my property gets shared out between the people I wanted it to be shared out between, right?’ Wrong! The laws of intestacy are very strict, and while the law is designed to ensure that your nearest, in particular your spouse, get the spoils when you die, that may not be what you want.
Now, by no means am I suggesting you leave your husband or wife out of your will. What I am saying, however, that unless you are happy for the law to decide for you, you should consider making a will and make those decisions for yourself. One thing that is certain, the rules of intestacy are not necessarily designed to make your affairs tax efficient. So, if you fancy paying a little bit more than you could, keep doing nothing.
Of course, it’s not all about the money. If you have children, you really ought to think about who will look after them if you were to die. The surviving parent would, in some cases, automatically assume sole guardianship if you were to die, but what about the unthinkable situation where you were to die together? Unlikely some might think, but you don’t have to be tandem skydivers to run a risk of dying together. I bet nobody had COVID-19 on their minds 12 months ago. Not as invincible as we may have thought we were.
COVID aside, you’re more likely to be involved in a car accident together with your spouse than someone you may have a pint with regularly down the local. That’s because you travel to places together, shopping, a weekly trip to the outlaws, perhaps to make sure you’re still in their will! So, you might want to think about a guardianship clause to ensure your little loved ones are looked after by someone who would raise them in the way you would like, sharing your hopes and aspirations.
If that’s not enough to get you thinking, watch out for the tax collector! Not content with dipping his hands into your pocket when you’re alive, HMRC will hope to get their hands on your hard-earned loot once you’re dead. Any money left over after your debts (no they don’t die with you) and your funeral expenses, is subject to inheritance tax. Your beneficiaries will get the first £325,000 (current tax year) free of inheritance tax, but anything over that could be subject to a whopping 40%. Think about the average value of a house today, and you’ll see it doesn’t take much for your estate to be enough to leave your loved ones with an unwelcome tax bill when you die.
Whilst planning early may not entirely mitigate an inheritance tax liability, with some smart thinking you could certainly make sure your loved ones get to keep a whole lot more. In these uncertain times, every little helps.
This information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice. Your specific situation requires careful consideration in our view by a person fully qualified before decisions are made and before you embark on a certain course of action.Nino CuffaroWills, Trusts, Probate, Lasting Powers of Attorney, Inheritance Tax planning, Contested Wills, Court of Protection matters.
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