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Dying to write a will

It’s been well noted in the media that some celebrities, such as Barry White, have died without leaving a will, causing a flurry of legal battles between friends and family members. Peter Mason, at Stourbridge based Chartered Accountants Armstrong Chase, explains the importance of making a will, and the implications that can be caused by not having one at all.

According to history books a passenger onboard the Titanic was quoted saying, “I swear that, as soon as we get into port, I'll see about getting that will made”. Although many of us don’t like to think about dying, it will eventually come to us all, which is why it’s best to make sure that our financial affairs are dealt with properly when the time comes.

Writing a will is not as complicated as some may think, you can even buy papers from the Internet! It really is a case of simply stating to whom you wish to leave your estate(s), monies, personal possessions and so on. The will must be signed in front of an independent witness and kept in a safe place, but be sure to tell those close to you where it is, as in some instances wills have been written and lost, which is of no help at all.

Real problems occur if no will is written at all, as the Government can end up with all your assets if you have no close relatives, and even if you do your wishes may not be accounted for. If you are married with children when you die your spouse gets everything up to £125,000, along with your personal possessions. The remainder is split in half, with 50% going to your children and the balance going into a trust for the rest of your spouse’s life, when your spouse dies this half reverts back to your children.

If you have no children, but are married, your spouse will receive everything up to £200,000 along with personal possessions, and the rest is split between your parents, however if they have already passed, it will be passed onto your siblings.

Nowadays, however, many people simply co-habit with their partners, and see no reason to get married. If you are in this position it really is best to ensure a will is written, because the consequences can be devastating for the partner left behind. If you are unmarried, a shared home may have to be sold if it is not in joint names, and the proceeds, along with the rest of the estate, will go to the next of kin. To stop this happening your partner will have to resort to the courts to recover their fair share.

Dying without a will can cause a great deal of additional stress for everyone involved. If you are unsure about how to write a will or the legal implications that can occur when one doesn’t exist, speak to a specialist.

For further information, please contact us on 01384 395 600.
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