The night before Halloween was known as All Hallows’ Eve and hundreds of years ago it was thought that the line between our world and the afterlife was especially thin around this time, which inspired the traditions of ghosts and ghouls and all things spooky.  The tradition of ‘Trick or Treating’ is thought to have come from the belief that supernatural beings, or the souls of the dead, roamed the earth at this time and needed to be appeased.

And while the afterlife is somewhere that none of us really want to think about going, we all know that there are important implications that we need to address while we are still this side of the line.  The most important has to be making sure you have made a Will, so that your loved ones don’t end up in a living nightmare.

Don’t be tricked into thinking things will sort themselves out after you’re gone – treat yourself to the peace of mind of knowing you’ve done what’s right for you and those you care about.

“My father remarried and died without making a Will and I’m not inheriting anything!”

“My husband raised my daughter from when she was a baby. He died without a Will and now the son he was estranged from is getting an inheritance while my daughter gets nothing!”

“My mother died before her divorce was finalised and now her ex-husband is claiming the house!”

 These are just some of the potential nightmare scenarios that your loved ones could be left to deal with if you die without a valid or up to date Will.

When someone dies without a Will their estate is divided up according to the Rules of Intestacy:

  • Their spouse or civil partner – even if separated – receives all personal property, the first £270,000 of the estate, and half of the remainder of the estate. (This means that if you weren’t married to your partner or in a civil partnership, no matter how long you’d been together, you get nothing at all).
  • The remainder is divided equally between any children, to inherit when they reach the age of 18.
  • If the above doesn’t apply then other relatives will inherit according to the order of priority under the Intestacy rules.

However, it’s not just having a Will that’s important – it has to be the right Will for your circumstances.  It’s equally important, if you have made a Will, to make sure that it is regularly reviewed and updated, especially if your circumstances change.  If you get married then any Will made previously is instantly revoked (unless it has been made ‘in contemplation of marriage’) and if you get divorced your ex-spouse is treated as if they have died.  If you have re-married, or have children from previous relationships, then there are specific types of Wills to make sure your assets end up where you want them to, and if the value of your estate exceeds your Inheritance Tax allowance then the right Will can make sure that your loved ones don’t pay more to the taxman than they need to.

Taking the correct advice from a specialist Solicitor is so important, and something that some very famous celebrities failed to do:

Marilyn Munroe died with a Will, but about half of her estate still went in taxes, and the rest spent 39 years going through the courts.  Even then, most of the remainder went to a friend who died a few years after her, and his widow (who Marilyn had never met) sold everything, making an estimated $30-40 million!

When Aretha Franklin died it was thought that she hadn’t made a Will, until multiple handwritten versions were discovered in her home, with another typed draft turning up a couple of years later.  This has led to ongoing legal complications and horrendous family disputes.

And who can forget Prince – who died with an estimated fortune of over $150 million but no Will!  This led to numerous people coming forward claiming to be ‘heirs’ and his siblings and half siblings are still embroiled in a bitter legal battle over his money and his music.

If you don’t want your legacy to be a horror story, then make sure you take advice from a specialist Solicitor so that you have the right Will in place, and your loved ones won’t have to go through the nightmare of additional heartache, family feuds and unnecessary expense.

SAMANTHA ANASTASIOU – SOLICITOR

 

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