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Number of intestate cases doubles: Five tips to help you write a will

Written by: Arun Sahota
The number of people dying intestate – without a valid will – more than doubled from 2011 to 2015, new data reveals. Arun Sahota of Mattioli Woods explains the importance of writing a will and five tips to help you draft one.

Statistics from Citizens Advice showed that in 2011 there were 1,522 intestacy cases, but this number rose to 3,747 in 2015.

Many people are put off by will writing because they don’t want to think about death, or in the belief that writing a will might “tempt fate.”

Unfortunately, often when someone dies intestate, it is the loved ones who end up with extra stress and responsibilities – at what is already a very difficult and emotional time.

Here are five key points to consider when drafting a will:

1) Get a Power of Attorney (PoA)

A PoA allows someone to act for you in the event of loss of capacity. A PoA allows loved ones to make important health decisions, and also run day-to-day financial affairs such as paying bills and accessing bank accounts. It can be made at the same time as a will, and can save considerable time and expense by avoiding going to courts to seek deputyship in the event of incapacity.

2) Provision for surviving spouse

Don’t just assume that everything goes to your spouse. The laws of intestacy changed in October 2014. These increased provisions for a surviving spouse, who now inherits chattels – personal property – the first £250,000 plus half the remaining estate. This is in contrast to the old laws, which only granted a ‘life interest’ – rights that last for the lifetime of the person benefitting, so it ends when they die – in the remaining half of the estate. This is an extremely important point if you have children with someone other than your current spouse.

3) How do you own property?

Consider how you own property. Property (or more specifically, real estate) can be owned either as joint tenants or tenants in common. Most of the property in the UK is owned by joint tenancy, meaning that if one of the owners dies, the property is transferred to the surviving owners, and is not governed by a will. There is no land registry fee to apply for a ‘severance of joint tenancy’ to change ownership to tenants in common.

4) Regularly update your will and know when it may be revoked

In England and Wales, wills are revoked on marriage. However on divorce the will assumes the spouse has pre deceased you, but the rest of the terms of the will remain unaltered. Therefore it’s important your will is revisited regularly in order to update it due to changing family situations (marriage, birth of a child etc) and also simply to update due to changes in your wealth and assets. Remember that Trust based pension schemes and other Trust assets are not part of your will, so these should also be updated with the relevant expression of wish forms.

5) Choose your will writers and executors carefully

It is important that the will is accessible and safely stored. I would advocate visiting a trusted legal representative to conduct both a PoA and will. This should be an in depth process, and you should see drafts before the final version. It is important to choose someone you trust to administer your estate, and ideally they should be younger than you (for obvious reasons), and be able to act impartially.

Arun Sahota is a consultant at Mattioli Woods, a wealth management and employee benefit service.

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