Alex Truesdale unearths some urban myths in relation to Wills and estate planning
Isaac Asimov famously wrote: “A myth or legend is simply not made up out of a vacuum. Nothing is – or can be. Somehow there is a kernel of truth behind it, however distorted that might be.” Urban myths hold many clients back from making Wills, so it’s worth sorting fact from fiction – whilst recognising there may be a grain of truth in there somewhere…
MYTH: “I don’t need a Will because my partner will get everything”
This is only true if you own everything within your estate jointly with your partner; if you have a spouse or registered civil partner and are childless; or if you have a spouse or registered civil partner and children and your estate does not exceed £270,000. But do you really want this to depend upon a set of statutory Intestacy Rules which could change at any time? And beware the term “common law spouse”- it is meaningless. Without a marriage or a civil partnership, cohabitees get nothing and your estate would be liable for 40% inheritance tax on the value of your share in excess of £325,000.
MYTH: “Executors cannot benefit from my Will”
It is fine to make gifts to your executors, and helpful to state whether the gift is conditional upon them accepting the appointment. Indeed, clients often appoint their partners as executors – and leave them everything. However, beneficiaries cannot witness your Will and if they do, any gift to them is invalid.
MYTH: “If both of us die, our children’s godparents are responsible for their upbringing”
Godparents are usually the people you would want to bring up your children – but should the unthinkable happen and your children are orphaned, only properly appointed Guardians can exercise parental responsibility. Without them, orphaned minors become wards of court and decisions made by the local authority. So it’s vital to include that appointment in your Will.
MYTH: “If I have a valid Will my executors need not apply for probate”
If the deceased owned very little, it is unlikely that probate will be needed – every bank and financial institution has their own limit based on individual or aggregate amounts held with them. Where any asset value exceeds £5,000, or where real property is involved, it is likely probate will be required.
MYTH: “Nothing can happen until the Will is formally read”
In eleven years of Will writing, Alex has never had to perform a formal reading of a Will, despite regular coverage onscreen from Albert Square to Hollywood! In reality, the Will is initially only for the eyes of the executors as it is then up to them to decide when to notify beneficiaries. Once the Grant of Probate has been extracted, the existence of the Will and its contents become public, and anyone can obtain a copy. In contrast, Letters of Wishes do not become public and are usually confidential to the executors. Alex helps many clients prepare deeply personal letters, covering everything from gifting keepsakes to family secrets…
MYTH: “Making a Will is a morbid, depressing exercise which I don’t need to contemplate until I am much older…”
There is no escaping it – making a Will does require you to think about a time when you are no longer here. But there is huge peace of mind in ensuring that your loved ones, and matters that are important to you, are taken care of. Alex focusses on the assets in the estate, and the family situation, to unlock sometimes creative solutions to help beneficiaries in the best, most flexible ways. All clients have the time and space they need to make decisions at their own pace, minimising stress. Indeed, many clients come to see Alex after the birth of their first child, so making a Will is often a consequence of one of life’s joyous events. One client had even described the process as ‘fun’!
Assuming that making a Will decreases your life expectancy is yet another myth! To schedule your no obligation initial consultation simply email:
Our brand new 36-page Client Guide provides a clear, informed overview of the key issues and decisions involved when considering Wills, trusts, Lasting Powers of Attorney, estate planning and estate administration.