|Making a Will|
It is important to make a will stating what you want to happen after you die. It should deal with your wishes for your funeral and the disposal of your assets and appoint someone to organise that (an executor). This links to the Law Society on wills: they would like you to use a solicitor.
If you die without making a will, you are said to be 'intestate' and your assets are distributed according to the intestacy rules. These are detailed on the gov.uk website here, but in simplified summary (and excluding Northern Ireland, which has different rules),
- If you have a partner but are not married or in a civil partnership, you partner will get nothing.
- Your spouse or civil partner gets the first £250,000 of the estate, and half of the value over £250,000, the rest being divided between your children or their offspring.
- Children, or their offspring, will inherit shares of the half over £250,000 if your spouse or civil partner is still alive, or the children will share the whole of the estate if you partner died before you.
- The share of the estate which did not go to the partner, that is either half of the excess over £250,000 or all of it if your partner has died, is divided equally between the first category of family from the following list that is still alive:
- great grand-children
- and so on
- If one of the persons at the level of distribution has died and is survived by children, their share is divided equally between those children. If that person did not have children, then that share goes to the surviving siblings.
- If there is no surviving partner or children or subsequent generations, then the estate goes to the intestate person's parents.
- If both parents have predeceased the intestate person, then the estate is shared by any full brothers or sisters; half siblings will only inherit if there are no full siblings.
- Next in line are nephews and nieces, but, again, only if there is absolutely no-one in the previous categories.
- Then we move on to grandparents, then uncles and aunts, then half-uncles and half-aunts.
- If there are no surviving relatives, then the estate goes to the Crown.
Once again, please note that there are different rules for Northern ireland.
One seeming omission from these rules is partners of children, for example, suppose Albert and Anne marry and have two children, Brian and Christine, and those children marry or civilly partner Beatrice and Colin (in whatever combination). Abert dies, Brian dies and then Anne dies intestate. Christine inherits, but does Brian's partner? More on this later.
Making a will
For all but the simplest of wills, you should use a professional: a solicitor or a will-writer, but shop around and do not use someone offering their services in the street before trying alternatives. Some trade unions offer a will-writing service, some charities do too (but may expect a donation) and solicitors hold occasional special offers such as Free Wills Month. Most stationers sell diy will packs.
You can write your own will and several web sites offer help (not always free) and there some books on the subject. Think carefully before writing your own, it can be a false economy and cause your family unnecessary stress at the worst of times.
Relevant publications are:
David Bunn, Wills and Probate, Which? Books, 2013.
Julian Knight, Wills, Probate and Inheritance Tax For Dummies, John Wiley & Sons, 2008.
Last Will & Testament Kit, Lawpack, 2015.
If your circumstances are straightforward are you are considering writing your own will, this links to the Money Saving Expert site on Cheap and Free Wills.
Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney allows someone else to make decisions on your behalf about health and welfare or your property and financial affairs when you are no longer capable of doing so (or earlier if you prefer). There are long forms to complete and solicitors will charge a lot to do it for you. This might be money well spent, but the government web site if very helpful in guiding you through the process.
Once the form is completed online, it is printed out, signed and sent to the Office of the Public Guardian with the registration fee of £110 (you might qualify for exemption of a reduction in the fee). On signatures, it is essential to get the form signed in the correct sequence: take care with this.
There are different processes for Northern Ireland and Scotland.
|The gov.uk link leads to the online system. The CAB and MSE links provide detailed information on the subject.|
What to do after someone dies
Dealing with an estate can take a year or more but there are more immediate requirements such as registration, arranging a funeral and also notifying gavernment departments, banks and other relevant bodies.
For government bodies, there is Tell Us Once which, theoretically, makes the job a little easier. The death should be registered first and the registrar will provide a reference number to use with the service.
|These links provide useful advice and information on the subject.|