Money myths busted: I don’t need a Will
Think you don’t need a Will? Think again. However much you are worth and however simple your family situation is, a Will is an essential part of estate planning. We explore why.
I don’t need a Will. Really?
Our consultants always check whether clients have a Will because we believe it is a key element of estate planning for everyone, regardless of age, income level, and personal situation.
Sometimes clients will tell us that they don’t have a Will because they don’t need one. There are two main reasons that they give:
- My assets are not significant enough
- My partner and children will inherit automatically
These are dangerous assumptions that could have serious implications if you were to pass away unexpectedly.
A Will enables you to dictate what happens to your assets when you pass away. Indeed, a Will is the only sure way to do this.
There are financial and emotional consequences of an individual dying intestate (without a Will) for those left behind. Let’s take a look.
Five potential consequences of not having a Will
- Your partner could lose their home
Making assumptions that a partner – married or not – will automatically inherit a home could lead to your loved one losing their home.
A non-married partner has no legal recourse to a home if they don’t jointly own it, regardless of how long they have lived in it. If you don’t state your wishes clearly in a Will, your children, parents, siblings and even the state could inherit ahead of them.
Married partners have a stronger claim on a home but there can still be issues if you die intestate. If that happens, the laws of intestacy will be applied to the estate. While a married partner is likely to inherit the property, the probate process will take longer. In some cases, it can last years and add additional stress to grieving loved ones.
Note that in some countries, forced heirship laws dictate how an estate is divided up with the deceased’s children entitled to a minimum share of the estate.
- Family disputes
So many families have been torn apart by feuds over the estate of a loved one who has failed to make a Will.
One famous example is Pablo Picasso. He died in 1973 at the age of 91 with a huge fortune but no Will. His family life was complicated and he left behind four children from three different mothers and a mistress who he had lived with for many years prior to his death.
It is reputed to have taken six years and $30 million to settle his estate, with six heirs eventually receiving an inheritance. The family was still feuding over a quarter of a century later!
A death in the family and a probate battle can divide even the closest of families. To avoid your nearest and dearest squabbling over the spoils after your death, make a Will.
- Expensive legal fees
A Will protects the interests of your partner and dependents and simplifies the private process. If there is no Will and the laws of intestacy must be applied, your loved ones may find themselves needing to hire a lawyer to fight a complex case that could drag on for years with no guarantee of a positive outcome.
Why take the risk when it can be avoided inexpensively with a watertight Will?
- Your children could suffer
If you’re a parent, your children’s welfare will be paramount. One important task for new parents is to set out in writing who they wish to be legal guardians of their child in the – unlikely but possible – event of both parents dying. This can be done in a Will.
If you fail to nominate guardians and your children are orphaned, it falls to the courts to make this decision. There is no guarantee their choice will be the same as yours. Even in clear-cut situations, the process is stressful for children and other family left to deal with this entirely avoidable situation.
- An excessive inheritance tax bill
Of course, you’ll want to maximise the amount you pass on to your chosen heirs and reduce your inheritance tax (IHT) liability. A Will is an invaluable estate planning tool you can use to ensure as much of your legacy as possible is passed to your loved ones.
Estate planning needs to be tailored to your unique circumstances, and this is especially true for expatriates who may have assets in several countries with different inheritance laws and are more likely to have a spouse of a different nationality with the challenges that brings.
Infinity can advise on estate planning, highlight the issues that you need to be aware of, and put you in touch with partners who can provide the expertise you need to ensure that you have a valid will in place.
Contact us for a free consultation to discuss how you can protect your loved ones with robust estate planning.
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