We all know at least the basics of inheritance law, and what makes a will such an important document.
Dying without one doesn’t just mean that our final wishes won’t be met. It means that the safety and support we are able to offer our loved ones – partners, spouses, children, parents – could be taken away in an instant.
A will details how every one of your assets should be distributed.
That includes money, property, cars, investments, any businesses you might own, digital assets (as far removed as e-wallets and digital photo albums) and any other sentimental possessions you may wish to pass on.
Shockingly, however, research shows that around half of UK adults have not yet created a will and risk dying intestate.
Here’s what that means and how you can ensure your loved ones are provided for when you die.
Why do so many people die without a will?
For starters, it’s not easy to plan for our own deaths. Planning for the future means sitting down and spending considerable time thinking about the very last thing we want to think about, and it’s understandable that so many of us are willing to put it off – push it to the backs of our minds – until the last minute.
Unfortunately, for some time, that ‘last minute’ passes all too quickly. It’s not always possible to draft a will as you reach the end of your life; testators need to possess the mental capacity to state their wishes, or the will may be declared invalid.
Many people do create wills, only for their loved ones to discover in the weeks after their death that the will was never considered valid.
This is almost always the result of a DIY will ‘kit’ – an at-home alternative to speaking with a solicitor.
Even if the will isn’t ruled invalid (usually for basic, clerical issues), it can lead to misinterpretation and major incidents within the family unit. In these instances, loved ones may need to turn to a will dispute solicitor to get what they feel they are owed.
What does dying intestate mean?
Dying intestate happens if you die without a will, or if your will is declared invalid.
It means that your estate is distributed according to the rules of intestacy, which stipulate a very rigid framework for inheritance.
The spouse is the first to lay claim to any inheritance of money or property, followed by any children who will only share half of the estate in England and Wales if it is valued at more than £270,000.
The rules of intestacy can omit some of the most important people in your life from inheriting anything, which can make it even harder for your loved ones to deal with grief.
What is the best age to create a will?
Anyone over the age of 18 with the requisite mental capacity can create a will, and there’s no ideal time after that to reach out to a solicitor to get started. Generally, people are advised to create a will as soon as they come into any significant money or, alternatively, own property (or start a business) or have children.
While wills can be updated every few years, there’s no downside to getting started early on in your adult life. There is, by contrast, a very big downside to waiting.