Our Private Client Associate Solicitor, Judy Rose, had the following article published in the Irish News this week –
If you haven’t already made a New Year’s resolution, then I suggest you make one of the most significant decisions now at the beginning of this new year.
Making a will is perhaps one of the most important documents you will ever sign and what happens to your finances and assets after your death, how they are distributed and who gets them, should be your decision. Without a will the law dictates what will happen in the event of your death and these rules may not reflect your personal wishes.
Nowadays our families are unique set-ups and they may not fit the conventional 2.4 children of old. By having a valid, well drafted and correctly executed will you will have the peace of mind of knowing that your assets will be distributed to your loved ones in accordance with your wishes.
You will also know that you have appointed someone you trust to look after your affairs and that your family will not be burdened by unnecessary worries at a difficult time. Using a professional legal advisor can reduce expensive mistakes that are often made with “home-made” wills. A professional solicitor will ensure that your will is legally valid and that your instructions are carried out as you wish.
Q. Do I need to have a will if I don’t own property but I do have children?
Even if you do not own property it is still extremely important to have a well drafted will in place when you have children. By having a will you can ensure that your children are provided for financially when you are gone. I believe one of the most important aspects of a will is being able to state who your guardians of your children will be, if you do not have a will the court will decide who your children will live with and this may not be the person you would choose.
Q. How will my partner and children be affected if I die without a will?
If you die without a will this is called dying intestate and your assets will be distributed under the rules of intestacy. If you are not married or in a civil partnership your partner will not inherit any of your assets which are held in your sole name, these assets will pass directly to your children. This can cause financial difficulty for your family. If you are married or in a civil partnership the first £250,000 of your estate will pass to your spouse along with all your personal possessions. The remainder of your estate will be divided 50 per cent to your spouse and 50 per cent to your children in equal shares which they will receive at 18 years of age.
Q. Are my step-children provided for automatically if I don’t have a will?
No, only biological and adopted children will inherit in accordance with the rules of intestacy if you do not have a will. You can only provide for step-children within your will.
Q. We are both divorced with children from our previous marriage – how do I ensure my children are provided for when I die?
It is important in this situation to have a will to ensure that your assets pass directly to your children and also so that you can provide for your step-children as well if that is your wish. Without a will your assets would pass directly to your new spouse once you are married and your children may end up getting nothing if your new spouse then leaves everything to only their children upon their death in their will or dies without a will.
Q. Can I put a trust in place within my will?
Within your will you can have a trust put in place which will provide for your children financially exactly how you would if you were still alive. You can leave clear instructions as to how you want your child to be brought up and give your trustee directions on how they should distribute your assets to ensure that those assets last for your children’s lifetime and cater for all of their needs.
Q. What age do my children inherit?
Under the rules of intestacy when you do not have a will the law states that a child is to inherit once they turn 18 years of age. I believe this is very young and many children will not even have finished their secondary education at this stage. Some children may be mature enough to inherit at 18 and it can be a daunting situation but others may cope better. If you have a will you can stipulate at exactly what age your children inherit and you can appoint Trustees to look after their inheritance until they turn of age.
Q. Who can I appoint as my executor?
You can choose anyone to be your executor. You should appoint someone you trust and who you believe would be able to do the job. I always recommend asking the person before you appoint them to ensure that they are willing to do it. They have to be over 18 years of age and an executor can be a beneficiary in your will, this will not invalidate any gifts you may leave to them.