The best way to ensure that your wishes are carried out after you have died is to leave a Will. A Will is a legal document which sets out how you wish for your estate to be divided after you have died.
We have probably all read about (or even been personally involved in) cases where somebody has sadly failed to leave a Will and make their wishes clear before their death which has led to an unwanted conflict and speculation over the division of their assets. A Will can reduce the stress on your family, leaving them with a clear picture of who is in charge of dealing with the estate and where your property, money and personal possessions are to pass. Wills are particularly vital for members of the farming community who will often have a business involving a substantial amount of land and property. Farmers will need to think about what they want to happen to the business after their death and how the assets are to be split between their loved ones. For example, are there family members already involved in the business? Are there other family members who are not involved the business who will also need to be provided for? What is to happen to the farm after they have died, is it to be sold or passed on?
If you do not leave a Will, the law decides how your estate is passed on which can lead to unfortunate and unintended results.
In addition, a Will does not just deal with the distribution of your estate, it is also possible to leave instructions for your burial or cremation and if you have young children, it is particularly important to name guardians for them or to create a Trust for the children or for other vulnerable individuals who may need the assets to be protected.
A Will can also help reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax that might be payable after your death. Without a Will your assets will be distributed in line with the statutory intestacy rules and your estate may be liable to Inheritance Tax that could otherwise have been avoided.
It is important to review your Will every couple of years to make sure you are happy with it. Just because you have drafted and signed your Will it does not mean you cannot change it. Your circumstances may change or you might just have a change of heart. And don’t forget- many people do not realise that marriage revokes any existing Wills, resulting in intestacy, so if you do get married more than once, make sure you make a new Will each time!