Providing peace of mind that your loved ones can cope financially without you

A will is an essential part of your financial planning. Not only does it set out your wishes, but, die without a will, and your estate will generally be divided according to the rules of intestacy, which may not reflect your wishes.

 

This can be particularly problematic for unmarried couples, as the surviving partner doesn’t have any automatic rights to inherit, but it can also create problems for married couples and civil partners.

Married partners or civil partners inherit under the rules of intestacy only if they are actually married or in a registered civil partnership at the time of death. So if you are divorced or if your civil partnership has been legally ended, you can’t inherit under the rules of intestacy. But partners who separated informally can still inherit under the rules of intestacy.

No one likes to think about it but death is the one certainty that we all face. Planning ahead can give you the peace of mind that your loved ones can cope financially without you and, at a difficult time, helps remove the stress that monetary worries can bring.

Planning your finances in advance should help you to ensure that, when you die, everything you own goes where you want it to. Making a will is the first step in ensuring that your estate is shared out exactly as you want it to be.

If you leave everything to your spouse or civil partner there’ll be no IHT to pay, because they are classed as an exempt beneficiary. Or you may decide to use your tax-free allowance to give some of your estate to someone else or to a family trust. Scottish law on inheritance differs from English law.

Good reasons to make a will

A will sets out who is to benefit from your property and possessions (your estate) after your death. There are many good reasons to make a will:

- you can decide how your assets are shared – if you don’t have a will, the law says who gets what

- if you’re an unmarried couple (whether or not it’s a same-sex relationship), you can make sure your partner is provided for

- if you’re divorced, you can decide whether to leave anything to your former partner

- you can make sure you don’t pay more IHT than necessary

Before you write your will, it’s a good idea to think about what you want included in it. You should consider:

- how much money and what property and possessions you have

- who you want to benefit from your will

- who should look after any children under 18 years of age

- who is going to sort out your estate and carry out your wishes after your death (your executor)

Passing on your estate

An executor is the person responsible for passing on your estate. You can appoint an executor by naming them in your will. The courts can also appoint other people to be responsible for doing this job.

Once you’ve made your will, it is important to keep it in a safe place and tell your executor, close friend or relative where it is.

It is advisable to review your will every five years and after any major change in your life, such as getting separated, married or divorced, having a child or moving house. Any change must be by ‘codicil’ (an addition, amendment or supplement to a will) or by making a new will.