Making or updating your Will: Are you confident your assets will pass to the people you want?

Thursday 2nd July 2020

The events of this year have cruelly demonstrated that nobody knows what lies around the corner. COVID-19 has brought into sharp focus the need to ensure that personal planning is up to date so that, even while uncertainty prevails in other aspects of life, peace of mind can be had on this front.

One thing that comes to most people’s minds is making a will.  Whether you’re doing this for the first time, or you are updating an existing will, the basic question you need to ask yourself is the same: if I were to die tomorrow, am I confident that the assets of my estate will pass to the people to whom I want them to pass?

Even if you have an existing will, this is not necessarily easy to answer. You need to understand which assets would pass under your will and which would not. Common misconceptions arise around pension pots, life assurance and property owned by more than one person.

You also need to understand how inheritance tax rules apply to you. Which assets and which beneficiaries suffer tax? Which gifts you have made during your lifetime might affect the tax payable?

If you don’t have a will, then a set of default rules apply. For some people these would suffice, but for many they will not, particularly as they were written nearly 100 years ago and do not reflect societal changes. A prime example is the rise of cohabiting couples who have neither married nor formed a civil partnership. Such couples are widespread but, in the event of a death, a surviving cohabitee who has failed to plan may not inherit any assets of the deceased whatsoever.

It is crucial to realise that a will is not just a document which deals with your assets alone. For parents with young children, that issue will be secondary, by some distance, to the sobering decision of who would step into your shoes and assume legal responsibility for your children should you die before they are 18. By making this decision in your will, you are dropping an important anchor in the stormy seas of a child’s world which will have been tragically turned upside down.

It should not take COVID-19 to put the task of preparing a will to the top of the “to-do” list, yet we find that it often does require some personal, or in this case global, event to make people realise that some things shouldn’t be delayed indefinitely.

If you would like to speak to us about making a will, or to review your existing arrangements, please contact Greg Dixon below.