As well as supporting our online Wills with legal checks, estate-planning experts from our parent company, Honey Group, visit people in their own homes across the length and breadth of England and Wales to provide estate-planning advice. Here are the 13 most dangerous misconceptions they most regularly come across …
Even if you are potless, you may have treasures in your life that need to be thought about after you've gone – your children for example. If you die intestate (without a Will) who gets what and who goes where will be entirely at the discretion of the Court.
As Teressa McDonald, Head of Legal Services at Honey Group advised in a recent interview with My Estate Planning Expert:
"When I have clients who tell me that they have nothing to leave I always point out that they're not dead yet and anything could happen between now and then. They could die while crossing the road, having just snapped up the winning lottery ticket. They might die as the result of an accident or an incident whereby their estate is due to receive compensation. They could inherit a lump sum from a distant relative.”
In theory, any of us could pass away with a large amount in our estate that we have made no provision for. Even relatively small amounts cause family rifts. Making it clear who is to get the residue of your estate (and therefore any windfall) is relatively straightforward and it means that you would have peace of mind that any windfall will not be wasted on legal fees by a feuding family.
A Will makes no provision for you, should you become ill and unable to express or make decisions for yourself. Without a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), the courts will step in and appoint a deputy for you. Without any instructions from you, it will be the courts that decide what happens to you, not your family. And although they can appeal, this is an expensive, time-consuming and extremely stressful process. Not something you would wish upon them during a time of understandable and unavoidable anxiety.
Experts at Honey Group can help you set up a LPA.
A Will actually ensures your estate goes through the probate system. Probate, lest we forget, exists to protect our families against fraud and ensure our fair contribution to the state purse, a purse that we rely upon in our time of need.
As reported previously, contesting Wills is on the up in England and Wales.. Today, it is more common than ever before for unhappy relatives to challenge a Will. This results in higher lawyers’ fees and even more delays.
Making a Will is still the only way (other than creating a Living Trust) to ensure your estate is distributed how you would like it to be, rather than leaving it to the fate of the courts, guided by archaic intestacy rules that do not recognise the rights of unmarried partners or stepchildren (to give just two examples).
A Will can help to ensure you plan for inheritance tax (IHT) and that your estate is taxed fairly, but writing a Will is not a way to avoid paying tax. A Will simply tells how you want your property distributed, and who you want to act as guardian for your minor children should – God forbid – both their parents die prematurely.
A skilled Will writer can use a Will to plan complicated estates that require tax planning, and may even recommend creating a Living Trust in addition to your Will. Doing so has many benefits, one of which is to enable you to avoid probate costs.
It currently takes, on average, 18 months for an estate in England and Wales to go through probate. During this time, the deceased person’s possessions must be inventoried and appraised. Heirs must be notified. Estate and inheritance taxes, if any, must be paid. Contested claims, if any, must be settled. Creditors must be notified and paid.
If all of this is not done before the estate is distributed to the beneficiaries of the estate, the executor will be personally responsible for those claims.
As such, most executors won’t distribute property until they are sure all claims have been settled.
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