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If you have not yet made a will, or if you have but think it might no longer be fit for purpose, you should take the opportunity to visit Cleaver Fulton Rankin and get your affairs up to date.
The statistics still show that only about one third of the population in the UK ever get around to making a will. This is a risky strategy as if you die intestate, that is without a will, you are relying on the law to decide how your assets should pass on death, and this could produce some unexpected results.
For example, you might assume that if you die all your assets will pass to your husband or wife absolutely, but in fact this is not always the case. Only a proportion of your estate may do so and any balance will be shared between your spouse and your children, even if they are minors. If you have no children, then your parents or siblings may have an entitlement; which is not always likely to reflect your wishes. At the very least, a simple will leaving everything to your surviving spouse would avoid a great deal of stress for them in the event of your death, even if you cannot decide on a wider succession plan. You can always revisit the arrangements again once you have decided.
Many people also intend to leave specific gifts or sums of money to friends or charities, and such legacies can only be incorporated by will. Making a will also allows you to choose executors to deal with your estate, and to appoint guardians to take care of your children if you should die whilst they are still minors. For parents of children, this is a particularly important issue.
For those with larger or more complex estates, making a will is a key first step in developing a clear succession plan. This is of particular importance if you have concerns about inheritance tax, or if there are other issues which may need to be addressed, such as the best way to deal with business assets or how to provide for beneficiaries who are suffering from a disability, and for whom outright gifts may not be appropriate. In such cases, the use of trusts may be desirable and these may be incorporated into your will itself or set up during your lifetime, with assets being transferred into them in the event of your death.
Finally, you should also bear in mind the fact that if you fail to make proper provision for your family or anyone who is financially dependent upon you when you die, then a disappointed beneficiary may be able to bring a claim against your estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) (Northern Ireland) Order 1979. Invariably, the costs of such claims are paid from the estate, resulting in even greater loss to your intended beneficiaries. Careful planning in the first place can help to minimise the risk of such claims arising.
Given the complexities involved, it is important that when making a will or undertaking any estate planning, you consult with a specialist Solicitor who is able to advise on all of these key areas and help you to make the best possible will in light of your own particular circumstances. It might just be the best decision you make.
This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor. Please contact our Family & Matrimonial Team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin for further advice or information.