The idea of planning for what will happen when we die may seem like an unnecessary chore - this couldn’t be further from the truth. Making arrangements for the future is something everyone should consider, no matter the size of their assets.
Here we provide an overview of the ways you can plan how your affairs are to be dealt with when you die. At Miller Samuel Hill Brown, our Private Client solicitors understand that planning for a time when we aren’t around anymore can be quite a challenging experience for clients. We work in partnership with you to ensure you understand how best to arrange your affairs, so they are dealt with in the way you want.
Making A Will
In the UK, the best way to ensure that your affairs are handled the way you want when you die is to write them down in a Will. This is a legally binding document that allows you to have complete control over how your estate is dealt with, and all of the instructions that you set down in the document will be followed.
For a Will to be valid, there are certain criteria that have to be met:
- You must decide to write a Will: it cannot be drawn up as a result of pressure from other people;
- You must understand that a Will is a legal document and that what is written down will be carried out according to what the document says;
- You must sign each page of a Will, and ensure it is also signed by a witness.
What Goes Into A Will?
A valid Will is a detailed guide for what will happen to all of your property when you die. Everything related to your property should be included: not only details regarding your home and savings, but also any investments you have, or anything which may have strong significance to you that you want to pass on to others. It is also advisable to set out any business interests that you have. For examples, shares that you hold in a company and what is to happen to these, whether selling them or passing them on to other family members.
Another important part of the process of creating a Will is the selection of Executors. These are the people you leave in charge of carrying out your wishes as contained in the Will. The role of the Executor is quite an important one. Not only will they be carrying out your instructions, they will also be responsible for closing down bank accounts, selling off pieces of property, dealing with funeral costs and making tax payments.
Before your Executors can carry out your wishes after you’re gone, they will need to apply to the court for permission to begin the process of dividing up your estate. This process is called ‘Confirmation’, which involves ingathering all of the details about your estate, which are then approved by the courts.
Our team of Private Client Solicitors will be able to work with you to ensure that your Will is valid and reflects your wishes. We can also provide detailed advice on what the role of the Executor involves and how Confirmation is carried out.
What Happens If There Is No Will
Planning for the future can be difficult. It becomes even more so when someone doesn’t write down their wishes in a Will. This is what is called ‘intestacy’. It simply means that a person has died without setting out how they want their estate (e.g. a house, bank accounts, investments) to be handled and distributed.
If someone dies without a Will, then their estate will be divided up among their family members according to a piece of legislation: The Succession (Scotland) Act 1964. This Act contains the rules for how property is divided up and who will inherit that property.
The law works in such a way that the deceased’s spouse or civil partner, along with any children that they have had, will be entitled to a share in the deceased’s property. However, the rules operate according to a hierarchy, meaning that some people in a family may be entitled to more than others. Furthermore, the rules become more complicated if someone has had a previous relationship and has children from that relationship.
The important point to understand is that if someone dies without a Will or any evidence of how they had planned for their estate to be distributed among their family, it can result in a lot of heartache. A very lengthy and drawn-out process can result, where parents, children and more distant relatives compete for different pieces of an estate or sums of money. This can be particularly difficult where people are hoping to receive some kind of payment of money, or allocation of property which may not actually exist.
Making a Will in Scotland: Legal Advice & Assistance
The Private Client team at Miller Samuel Hill Brown are experts in dealing with Wills and other concerns faced by clients that are planning for the future. Let us help you. If you have never considered drafting a Will, or have questions about what happens when there is no Will, please contact our specialist Private Client lawyers on 01412211919.