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Respect your descendants by making a will

7th September 2018

Last month, we lost music legend Aretha Franklin. Aretha left behind an impressive and extensive discography spanning six decades, a legacy of philanthropy and a reputation for advocating for civil and women’s rights.

Unfortunately though, she did not leave a will.

As a result, her four sons have registered themselves as interested parties in her estate, with her niece applying to be her personal representative. The outcome of this remains to be seen and may take some considerable time and expense to settle!

Aretha joins a legion of other famous faces, including Amy Whitehouse, Kurt Cobain, Prince and Michael Jackson, who did not record their testamentary wishes. And while most of us will not have fortunes worth tens of millions of dollars, this highlights the importance of making a will to deal with the distribution of an estate on death.

Nyree Downton, a Private Client solicitor at Black Country law firm Higgs & Sons, said: “In England and Wales, if no such will instruction is given, the estate will pass in accordance with the intestacy rules that say where a person leaves a surviving spouse or civil partner without issue (ie. children, grandchildren and remoter descendants), the survivor inherits the entire estate.

“Where a person passes away leaving a surviving spouse or civil partner and issue, the surviving spouse or civil partner receives the personal chattels, a statutory legacy of £250,000 and where the estate exceeds that sum, a right to income only in one half of the remaining estate. The issue receive the other half of the estate and will receive the rest of the residuary estate on the death of the survivor. Where a deceased person does not leave a surviving spouse or civil partner but leaves issue, the estate passes to such issue on statutory trusts.

“In the event that a person dies without leaving a surviving spouse or civil partner and no issue, the estate passes to their surviving parent(s) or their surviving sibling(s) or their siblings’ issue on statutory trusts should their parents have both predeceased them. From there, assuming there are no such surviving siblings or issue, the estate passes to increasingly remoter family members, including half brothers and sisters (or their issue), grandparents, aunts and uncles and half-aunts and uncles.”

Nyree added that while this may be suitable for some, it is by no means a ‘one size fits all’ option, given the increasingly diverse nature of familial relationships.

In addition to making specific provision for the way in which the residuary estate should be distributed, she points out that a will can also provide the following:

  • The appointment of guardians for any minor children, which could prevent a great deal of heart-ache for any family members left behind by removing the need for them to make difficult decisions on child-care at a time when they were grieving and provide the appointed persons with the necessary parental responsibility;
  • Funeral wishes, which could also circumnavigate difficult and potentially erroneous decisions in the absence of any expressed wishes;
  • The appointment of Executors, ensuring that trusted persons are appointed rather than leaving it to chance as to who will administer an estate, avoiding the potential appointment of an unsuitable person or persons and a delay in the administration of the estate; and
  • Specific asset protection and/or inheritance tax mitigation opportunities.

Higgs & Sons has a team of specialists able to receive will instructions, advise upon the best will structure to suit your needs and to prepare will documentation that takes account of assets, wishes and particular family circumstances. Show your descendants a little R.E.S.P.E.C.T and speak with one of their Private Client solicitors by calling 0345 111 5050.

 

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