Many people feel that it’s important to organise their affairs before they die. It allows them to have greater control over what happens to their property and belongings, as well as thinking about funeral plans.
If you care about what happens to your property and possessions after your death, you should make a will. Although you don’t have to, it’s the best way to make sure your estate is passed on to family and friends exactly as you wish. If you die without a will, your assets may be distributed according to the law rather than your wishes.
A will sets out who is to benefit from your property and belongings (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 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 Inheritance Tax than necessary.
Although it is possible to write a will by yourself, it is advisable to use a solicitor as there are various legal formalities you need to follow to make sure that your will is valid. You may also need legal advice for more complicated matters. We can also advise you about how Inheritance Tax affects you.
One of our solicitors can visit you in your own home, care home or hospital. The cost of writing up a will can vary and will depend on how complicated your affairs may be.
It’s a good idea to think about what you want to include in you will. You should consider:
How much money and what property and belongings 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?
An executor is the person responsible with 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.
You may also wish to consider giving money to charity in your will.
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. Your will would be kept safe & secure until such time it is needed. You can ask for the original if you wish to hold it.
You should 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. You can make changes by adding a note to your existing will, this document is called a ‘codicil’, or by making a new will.
Probate’ is a term commonly used when talking about applying for the right to deal with a deceased person’s affairs (called ‘administering the estate’). In practice, different terms are used, depending on if the deceased person left a will and where they lived.
There are different terms associated with probate.
If the person who has died leaves a will one or more ‘executors’ may be named in the will to deal with the person’s affairs after their death. The executor applies for a ‘grant of probate’ from a section of the court known as the probate registry.
The grant is a legal document which confirms that the executor has the authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets (property, money and belongings). They can use it to show they have the right to access funds, sort out finances, and collect and share out the deceased person’s assets as set out in the will.
If the person has died and there is no will, a close relative of the deceased can apply to the probate registry to deal with the estate. In this case they apply for a ‘grant of letters of administration’. If the grant is given, they are known as ‘administrators’ of the estate. Like the grant of probate, the grant of letters of administration is a legal document which confirms the administrator’s authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets.
In some cases, for example, where the person who benefits is a child, the law states that more than one person must act as the administrator.
A grant of probate/representation is almost always needed when the person who dies leaves one or more of the following:
£10,000 or more.
Stocks or shares.
Certain insurance policies.
Property or land held in their own name or as ‘tenants in common’.
In most cases above, the bank or relevant institution will need to see the grant before transferring control of the assets. However if the estate is small some organisations, such as insurance companies and building societies, may release the money to you at their discretion.)
A grant of representation may not be needed where:
The person who died left less than £10,000
They owned everything jointly with someone else and everything passes automatically to the surviving joint owner.
To find out if the assets can be obtained without a grant, the executor or administrator would need to write to each institution informing them of the death and enclosing a photocopy of the death certificate (and will if there is one).
The personal representative won’t be granted probate until some or all of any Inheritance Tax that is due on the estate has been paid.