According to figures from Macmillan Cancer Support, one million people in Britain have been involved in a family feud caused by a relative dying without having written a will, and 200,000 of those claimed that their family had been broken up as a result.
Grieving for a loved one is a horrible enough process without piling on additional, and totally unnecessary, financial stress. At a time when emotions are running high, it is not surprising that a deceased individual’s failure to state who gets what so often culminates in bitterness and strife for those left behind. This is compounded by the fact that the traditional nuclear family in decline and second marriages are on the increase with the complications of ex-partners, stepchildren and half siblings to add in to the mix.
But a family dispute is just one of the potential problems caused by failing to write a will. Just ask The Young Ones and Blackadder actor Rik Mayall’s family about the risks. Mayall, who died suddenly of a suspected heart attack last year left no will to say how his reported £1.2m estate should be distributed. Not only will this have meant a lengthy period of probate while intestacy laws were applied, but his family also faced an inheritance tax bill of up to £60,000 which could have been entirely avoided with some careful estate planning.
And don’t think that the inheritance tax issue only applies to wealthy celebrities – ordinary families just like yours could be hit too. The current IHT threshold of £325,000, static since 2009, has seen many homeowners brought into the net as house prices rise. The value of the estate over the threshold is taxed at a punitive 40%. Research from UK website unbiased.co.uk suggests that Britons will pay a whopping £550m in unnecessary inheritance tax payments this year.
In spite of the potential issues raised by an individual dying intestate, the majority of the UK adult population (nearly six out of 10) do not have a will because they ‘haven’t got round to it’. Others believe it will be too expensive. The first excuse is, frankly, lame and the second simply not true. The cost of a will does not need to be expensive and will, in any case, be well worth it to get your affairs in order, leave your beneficiaries the easiest possible passage imaginable to fulfilling your end-of-life wishes and minimise the amount of your estate which goes to the taxman.
It is possible to do a DIY will but if your legal knowledge is sketchy, you could be causing more problems than you solve, which is why we would always counsel taking expert advice. Our will-writing expert would be happy to talk you through the issues and discuss exactly what you can do to avoid leaving family feuds and tax bills in your wake when your time is up.
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