Where a person passes on having left a Will, their estate is said to be testate. If no Will exists or a Will is found to be invalid, their estate falls into intestacy and certain default rules apply to distribution to family members.
If you unexpectedly pass away without a Will in place, your loved ones will be left in the dark regarding your desires. As they mourn, they will have to make difficult decisions about how to best administer your estate. Without a Will, the process of distributing your assets can become expensive, drawn-out and can cause conflict among family members.
In order to avoid the burden and cost of determining distribution of assets in intestacy upon your family after you have gone, it is always advisable to have a valid Will properly drafted and kept as a contingency. There are certain criteria that have to be met in order for a Will to be valid and withstand challenge, and so it is always advisable to draft with the guidance of a Wills and Probate Solicitor.
Making a Will
Writing a will is something many of us speak about but never get around to. However, if you want your wishes to be respected after you are gone, it is important to make a Will. Otherwise, your estate will be divided according to law and some of your nearest and dearest may lose out. Writing a valid Will takes some expertise so contact Lewis Nedas today.
Unfortunately, the probate process can become contentious. Speak to a knowledgeable Wills and Probate Solicitor to protect your inheritance through an effective Will. Our team will analyse your family and financial situation and ask questions you may not have previously considered. We can help you name suitable guardians for your children and executors of your estate. We will also help you anticipate potential obstacles and changes that you may encounter in the future.
Criteria for a valid Will
In order for a Will to be valid and withstand challenge, there are a range of criteria to be adhered to:
- The Will must have been entered into by someone over the age of 18.
- The Will must have been entered into by a person who is (1) of sound mind (2) drafts the Will voluntarily and without duress.
- The Will must be in writing.
- The Will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses. If the witness is a beneficiary of the Will, or married to a beneficiary of the Will, that witness cannot subsequently inherit.
Contents of the Will
A Will ordinarily contains, firstly, an inventory of all the possessions and funds an individual owns, or envisions owning. Second, it will indicate the persons the drafter wishes to benefit through distributions of assets. A beneficiary can include a charitable organisation. Third, it will indicate who should administer the distribution of the estate in a position known as the executor.
An executor is the individual appointed by the person who drafted the Will to distribute assets to beneficiaries. The executor is also responsible for settling debts and liabilities that the drafter of the Will had outstanding. In most cases, the executor will be a family member, solicitor or bank representative.
Changing and destroying a Will
A Will can be altered after signing through (1) adding a codicil or (2) drafting a replacement Will. A codicil is a written document containing amendments to the original Will, which must be signed and witnessed as per the original Will in order to be valid. If a person wishes to cancel their Will entirely and start over, the new Will must state it is revoking the previous Will, which will have to be destroyed.
A Will is destroyed where it is torn, burned or otherwise disposed of in the presence of the drafter with the intention that it is to be destroyed. Diligence must be carried out to check other copies have not been made.
Hiring an experienced Wills and Probate Lawyer to help you create or make changes to your Will is imperative. A single mistake can cause your family unnecessary emotional and financial distress. We encourage our clients to take all necessary steps to ensure their wishes are legally documented through their Wills.
Contact our Wills and Probate Solicitors London
Family law cases involving Wills and distribution of assets can become very complex where there are varied interested parties, including in-laws, former spouses and children.
Lewis Nedas’ Wills and Probate Lawyers are equipped with the knowledge and experience needed to handle estates of any size. We offer a tailored, focused review of your family circumstances in order to determine how best to navigate individual relationships and appoint effective administration of your estate. Please contact us on 020 7387 2032 or complete our online enquiry form.