Wills and Probate

What is a Will?

A Will is a legal document that should state what you wish to happen to your money and your minor children when you die. English law allows you complete freedom to give what you have to however you want , so long as you are of sound mind when you make the Will and you execute it (sign it in front of two independent witnesses) in the correct manner. It is possible for some categories of people to challenge a Will that disinherits them, but that does not mean that they will necessarily get anything at all, save perhaps a hefty legal bill.

Do I need one?

If you own nothing, have no children, live alone and live on benefit then you do not need a Will. However, if you own a property or have savings or have minor children, or live with someone then it is always advisable to have a Will saying who should get what when you die.

Some Common Avoidable Problems:

Joint tenants may want to sever a tenancy to ensure their share passes to a particular person or class of persons (often to children instead of the spouse) and if so will need a Will to pass their severed share to the intended recipient(s) – or it will be dealt with by the intestacy rules (and automatically pass to the spouse) – which is probably exactly not what they wanted to happen when they decided to sever; Cohabiting couples have no claim on each other’s estate until they have lived together for two years – and then they may have to sue their deceased partner’s family to secure some money from the estate unless they are joint tenants and or have Deeds of Trust in place; it is only a ‘claim’, not a right and they may sue and still get nothing.

If a husband and wife die together, property passing by survivorship will pass to the relatives of the younger spouse. Few people like to think that their mother-in- law will inherit their house while their own family gets nothing in these situations.

If you do not appoint testamentary guardians for minor children in your Will then the social services can get involved and in extreme cases they place the children in foster care while they decide where the children will live.

Do I need a solicitor to draw it up for me?

Panorama exposed some of the potential risks of not using a lawyer when drawing up a Will. Will writers are not regulated, may not be insured and if anything goes wrong consumers have little protection. To make matters worse, it isn’t the person who commissioned the Will who suffers the consequences of the incompetence or malpractice, it’s the loved ones to whom they bequeathed their estate.

Go on the internet and you’ll find plenty of DIY Will kits and guides telling you how to make a Will yourself. For people on a tight budget, saving money by cutting out the lawyer is very tempting, but it is more likely that something will go wrong and when it does, there is no safety net or fall-back position.

Our Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority and will ensure that you do things right.