Wills  Why you need one and how a solicitor can help

Wills Why you need one and how a solicitor can help


By Lucie Scott, Solicitor at Dickinson Dees LLP, Newcastle upon Tyne.


Having a will is key if you want to control the ultimate destination of your estate.  It lets you decide who receives what and when. For example, the Intestacy Rules provide that children inherit at 18, which many people feel is too young. A will lets you specify a later age for children to inherit at, say 25. 
Speaking of children, have you considered who would look after them if you die before they turn 18? If you have parental responsibility, your will can appoint an appropriate person to be their guardian, helping reduce stress at a very difficult time.
During the period from 1997 – 2008, the average percentage of people that died and left a will was 38.15% (highest, 44.4% in 2008, lowest 34.8% in 2002). This means a staggering 61.85% of people that died didn’t leave a will, and therefore their assets are passed in accordance with the Intestacy Rules which may well put in place provisions that they would be extremely unhappy with. In some cases, there are no obvious heirs and although every effort is made to track down heirs to the deceased’s estate, there are many occasions where they are unsuccessful, so their estate passes to either the Crown, the Duchy of Lancaster or the Duchy of Cornwall (depending on where the deceased lived).
In the current economic climate, people are increasingly looking for ways to save money. DIY will packs or internet wills are cheap, and so seem particularly attractive. However, a lack of understanding of the law may expose your will to challenges after you die. Any mistakes are unlikely to reveal themselves until after your death, when it will be too late to correct them. So whilst you saved the cost of having your will drawn up by a professional, the consequences could be a loss to your family of tens of thousands of pounds! 
A solicitor specialising in this area of law can guide you through the various pitfalls and explain the options most suitable to your circumstances. Such solicitors train for many years and they can ensure that your will protects your assets from inheritance tax. 
Many of us will have specific causes that we like to support, and while we may give to these causes throughout our lifetimes, we can also provide for them after we have gone. As gifts to charities are exempt from inheritance tax, this can be a particularly tax efficient way to not only benefit the causes you care for, but also reduce the amount of inheritance tax payable after your death. 
A specialist solicitor will meet with you to take a complete overview of your current situation, including your assets and liabilities, as well as your long-term aims. They will then advise you on the best form of will for your circumstances, before preparing the document. 
Finally, remember that a well drafted Will is a valuable investment for your loved ones.
This article was first published in the Charity Choice Newsletter – 2010, Issue 1.


Article disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the views of the author only.
If any issue affects you, you must instruct a solicitor and take appropriate legal advice.