Not the most enlightening of subjects is it?
And not one you'll probably discuss often, with either friends or family.
What's that I hear you say?
The good news is that I'm not going to take up the next few minutes of your life talking about how we might all eventually leave planet earth.
Instead, I want to spend the time talking about the financial impact upon your family and loved ones you leave behind.
What if you don't have a Last Will and Testament? (and depending on which stats you believe, apparently 70% + of the UK adult population don't have one).
Law of Intestacy
This law dates back to 1925. If you die without having made a Will, your assets are distributed in accordance with this law and 'statutory legacies', which specify the amounts that are distributed to certain parties. The last time the amounts were reviewed was 1993.
The basic rule is that:
- The spouse or civil partner will receive personal chattels and the first £250,000 if there are children, plus a life interest on half the residue
- The children receive a life interest on the remaining half AND the surviving spouse's half (capital) when they eventually die the spouse or civil partner will receive personal chattels and the first £450,000 if there are no children, plus half the balance
- Parents/brothers and sisters receive the remaining half (in that order if they are alive, or the money goes to other relatives)
- Make sure you check all the 'small print' of the law of intestacy as we have only covered the basics here (figures correct at 20 February 2009)
These amounts were actually increased on 1 February 2009 from £125,000 and £200,000 respectively. This followed a review by the Government that commenced in 2005.
Last Will and Testament
Now, assuming you don't want to leave things to chance your best option is to organise a Will. There are a few reasons for this:
YOU can decide how your assets should be distributed and to whom they should go to if you have children you can appoint guardians to look after them if neither you or your spouse/partner are alive. You can also appoint trustees to look after your assets until the children are old enough to take responsibility for themselves If you don't have a Will, why not?
There may be a few reasons:
- It's a bit of a depressing topic. Fair enough, it is. But we're all going to die someday and actually making the Will won't kill you!
- You think you're too young. If you can vote or ask for a drink (legally!) in a pub then you can make a Will
- It'll take too much time. How can you know if it does unless you've been though the process yourself? It's quite straightforward to set one up so this excuse does not really wash
- It'll cost a fortune. Not quite. Depending on which solicitor you use you shouldn't have to pay more than £100-200. If you are setting up 2 wills a discount may apply
One option is to set up a 'DIY' Will. This will be cheaper than going to a solicitor but if you get it wrong you'll only have yourself to blame.
The most sensible option is to use a qualified solicitor. Yes you'll have to pay a fee but at least you'll have the peace of mind that it's been set up correctly and in line with your wishes.
The Financial Tips Bottom Line
If you die without having made a Will you may end up leaving behind a 'mess' for your loved ones to clear up long after you've gone. If you see yourself as a responsible person (and don't have a Will yet) maybe it's time to get one set up.
Contact your solicitor and ask them to begin the process of organising a Will(s) for you.
About the Author
Ray Prince is an Independent Financial Planner with Rutherford Wilkinson ltd, and helps UK Resident Doctors and Dentists get the best deals on mortgages, protection and investments, as well as helping them achieve their financial objectives. Just visit http://www.medicaldentalfs.com to get your free retirement planning guide. Rutherford Wilkinson ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority.