- You, and only you, choose how your estate will be distributed. A Will is legally binding and determines exactly what you would like to be done with your estate in the event of your death. It allows you to design who you wish to benefit from your estate (your beneficiaries) and exactly what you wish them to inherit. Dying without a will is referred to as dying intestate and leaves no guarantee that your wishes are realised.
- You can choose who will administer your estate. By nominating Executors (or Trustees as they may be referred to) in your Will, you can choose who is responsible for making sure your affairs are in order: debts are paid, property is sold, money is invested, etc. By nominating your Executors, you can ensure that somebody trustworthy, honest, and diligent is in charge of dealing with your estate.
- You decide who will act as guardian to your children. A Will allows you to make a decision about who is best placed to take care of your children in the event of your death. Without a Will and in the absence of another parent, the court will take it upon itself to choose a guardian. Having a Will makes sure that the person bringing up your children in your absence is who you would want to do so.
- You can disinherit those who may otherwise stand to inherit from your estate. In Scotland, your spouse and children can claim from your estate if you leave them out of your Will (though you can take steps to limit their inheritance). However, if you wish to disinherit anyone else who may otherwise stand to inherit, such as an estranged sibling, parent, or other relative, you can leave them out of your Will and only your chosen beneficiaries will inherit from your estate.
- Scots Succession Law has not evolved with the times. It is far more common today to live with your partner when you are unmarried than it was in the past. This is known as cohabitation and your cohabiting partner is not guaranteed to inherit from your estate in the way that a married partner would be. Cohabitants can claim for financial provision but this is a long and expensive process. Having a Will eliminates the risk of this and saves your partner considerable effort and expense.
- You can decide when your beneficiaries inherit. If the beneficiaries within your Will are still young, it is often beneficial for their inheritance not to be distributed immediately. Creating a Will allows their inheritance to be withheld until they reach an age where they will be able to make informed decisions about how to use it. If you die with young children, creating a Trust for Bereaved Minors allows their inheritance to be protected until an age of your choosing and managed or invested in the meantime.
- Mitigate your Tax Liability. Another reason to have a Will is that it allows you to make decisions to minimise the amount of Inheritance Tax payable on your estate. Any value in your estate over the Nil Rate Band (£325,000) will be taxed at a whopping 40% but there are many ways that your Will can protect you from this and maximize the inheritance due to your beneficiaries.
- Your Will can be changed at any time. If you have children, get married, divorce, buy property, or make any other decisions that affect your estate or who you would wish to inherit you can change your Will. By creating a Codicil or even a new Will you can ensure that your Will reflects your up to date wishes. Without a Will, you have no power to change how your estate is dealt with upon your death.
- You can create trusts to protect your assets. When you transfer assets into a trust, and providing certain conditions are satisfied, you no longer own that property. A trust is a legal document that passes assets to someone else (Trustees) allowing them to manage those assets for the benefit of a third person (the Beneficiary). If a Trust is created within your Will, it can protect your own estate’s Inheritance Tax position and the Inheritance and Income Tax positions of your beneficiaries. A Liferent Trust can also protect your property from being sold to pay astronomical care home fees.
- Because you never know what tomorrow holds. Often, the importance of a Will is only realised when it is too late. Without wanting to end on a morbid note, any of us could die tomorrow and leave our estate in the uncompromising hands of intestacy. As soon as you create a Will, this possibility is avoided and the inheritance of your children, your partner, and any other intended beneficiary will be protected in the event of the tragic and the unexpected.
For a no obligation chat about how putting a Will in place can help you and those close to you, contact our Private Client team.
The information and opinions contained in this blog are for information only. They are not intended to constitute advice and should not be relied upon or considered as a replacement for advice. Before acting on any of the information contained in this blog, please seek specific advice from Gilson Gray.