I don't need a Will, I have nothing to leave...
- AuthorKate Twigg
Time and time again, Private Client lawyers hear this same sentence, “I don’t need a Will I have nothing to leave”. The reality is that everybody has something to leave, even if they do not consider it to be financially valuable.
If you have young children then it is extremely important that you have a Will in place. It will allow you to nominate someone to act as the Guardian of your children when you are not around. If there is no guardianship nomination and no surviving parent, then the court will decide who is to be appointed to look after your children. This may be someone that you would not have chosen yourself, it may not be a relative and it may be someone who does not know your children. It could also cause a huge rift within the family if there are a number of relatives who wish to apply to the court to be appointed guardian. If a Will is in place appointing a Guardian then it is very clear as to who is to look after your children in the event of your death.
There are a number of assets that you may have that could fall into your estate after death unless they have been nominated out. A Will allows you to direct those assets to your chosen beneficiaries rather than them being distributed in accordance with how the government dictate in their legislation.
Following the introduction of the work place pension, everybody should now be paying into a pension. If this pension is not nominated out to a specific beneficiary and you should die without having drawn it down, then a lump sum may be payable to your estate. Similarly if you receive a death in service benefit through your work then this could fall into your estate if you have not made a nomination for it to pass directly to a beneficiary.
The other common asset that can be nominated out to a beneficiary directly is life insurance. If this is the case it will automatically pass to them without falling into your estate, but if you have not nominated a beneficiary to receive it, then it will fall into your estate and pass in accordance with your Will, providing you have got one.
The other purpose of a Will, other than to redirect your assets, is to allow you to decide who is the best person to be able to deal with your estate when you have died; an Executor. The Executor will be responsible for cashing in your assets, paying your debts out of your assets, finalising your tax affairs, arranging your funeral, distributing your assets in accordance with your Will and if any of your Beneficiaries are minors, they will be responsible for looking after their investment until they reach the age of entitlement. A Will allows you to appoint the person that you think is the most appropriate to deal with this. If you have no Will then the government will dictate the order that people are entitled to deal with your estate and it may be that someone who you would prefer not to act will end up doing so.
It is also important to note that unmarried partners are entitled to nothing under government legislation so if you want to make sure that your partner is entitled to anything, even if all you think you have is personal possessions, then a Will is necessary.
A Will makes it much easier for family and friends to sort out your estate after you die. It makes it very clear what is to happen with your assets and your children and the process is usually much quicker and less stressful than if you should die without a Will.