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Wills: What happens if Britons fail to put their affairs in order – act now

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A will, formally known as a Last Will and Testament, clearly sets out what a person wishes to happen to their estate when they pass away. Whether a person desires to set aside money for family members, or leave funds to charity, a will is the ideal vehicle by which to make one’s expressions known. Writing a will is often an endeavour which is put off or avoided, either due to a person not wishing to think about their death, or the administrative work required.

However, what is clear is that failing to leave a will could complicate circumstances for the people one leaves behind.

Those who do not leave a will behind when they die will have their money, property and possessions shared out according to the law.

The law will decide who receives what and how much they receive, meaning a person someone wishes to pass things on to could end up with nothing at all.

Therefore, to avoid disinheriting those someone wishes to provide for, a will could be the best option.

People who die without a will are known as intestacy – and this means there are certain rules to follow.

One particular problem which could arise is for those who are unmarried, as a partner is not legally entitled to anything. 

As such, even those in long-term committed relationships could end up with no legal rights to money, property or possessions.

On the other hand, for those who are married, a husband or wife could inherit most of an estate – even if the pair are separated, but not if they are divorced.

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As such, children may be provided with less than a person would have liked them to inherit due to the law.

Another issue those who die intestate will have to contend with is the Inheritance Tax on their estate.

The Money Advice Service has said this bill is likely to be higher for those who have not made a will than those who have.

A higher IHT bill is likely to mean more of a person’s estate is removed in tax, meaning inheritance could be reduced, or potentially wiped out altogether.

Finally, those who die without any living close relatives will have their whole estate taken by the Crown or the government in a law known as bona vacant.

If a person does not have any surviving relatives, but, for instance, wishes to give to charity, then they must clearly lay out their wishes in a formal document. 

The Money Advice service has also noted that £8million worth of money and property went to the government last year because people failed to leave a will.

As such, Britons are urged to act fast to ensure their affairs are in order before their death.

They should start by making a plan of what they would like to leave, and then to whom.

Next, they should look into getting a will written, which can be executed in a number of ways.

Some will wish to consult a solicitor, while others may choose to write their will themselves. 

Investigating these options, though, is key to ensure the will is legal and sound. 

Finally, a will should be written and signed with witnesses present, to ensure the document and the wishes contained within can be enacted after a person’s death. 

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