Will and Testament

Will and Testament

Don’t leave without it.

About seventy percent of adults in England die without having made a will.  Often, this may not affect the distribution of the estate, particularly when the intestate would want his or her estate to devolve upon a spouse and children.  Partners, other than civil partners, would not be covered by the Intestacy Law and would not be beneficiaries.

A major problem can arise where the intestate leaves children, as well as a spouse or civil partner.  The entire estate, available for distribution, passes to the surviving spouse/civil partner, in so far as (excluding personal possessions) it does not exceed £250,000. Any excess is divided as to one half, held in trust as to income only, for the surviving spouse or civil partner for life and as to the other half to be held for the benefit of the children.

Where there are no children, and other relatives survive, the residuary estate passes to a spouse or civil partner up to a value of £450,000.  Any excess over that amount is again divided, but in this case, one half of the excess passes to the surviving spouse/civil partner directly and the other half goes to the parents of the deceased directly, but if none of them survives, then such share passes to blood brothers and sisters.  A surviving spouse or civil partner will only inherit the entire residue of the estate available where there are no parents or siblings alive to inherit.

A further problem can arise where the person who would administer the intestate estate is mentally incapable of accepting appointment.  This can cause long delays in obtaining the Grant of Administration, while the necessary medical evidence is gathered, and a separate application has to be made to have someone else appointed as the administrator (called an executor where there is a will).

These are only a few of the issues that can arise to inhibit the finalisation of an intestate estate.  Problems can, of course, occur even where there is a will, but, generally, the administration proceeds more smoothly.

Some people seem to think that making a will is tantamount to tempting fate, but statistics suggest that this is definitely not the case.  Others may agree with the French poet, René Char, who said: “Our inheritance was left to us by no testament.”   Perhaps we do inherit the earth, but having a will, dealing with one’s worldly goods, makes a time of mourning just a little bit easier to bear for those left behind.

Geoffrey Cohen

Beverley Morris & Co Solicitors