Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a marked increase in the number of people seeking to create or update their Will. Having a Will in place is important in order to ensure that your wishes are met once you pass away. Without having a Will in place, there can be added complexities if you pass away without one.
If you pass away without a Will in place, this is known as dying intestate and your estate will be administered according to the Scottish laws of intestacy. This may mean that your property, money and possessions are not distributed in the way you would wish them to be. Having a Will in place not only details how your estate should be administered but can legally protect your spouse, children and assets.
Avoiding Family Disputes
By creating a Will, you are outlining who should handle your estate and how this should be distributed following your passing. Having your wishes detailed in black and white can help avoid potential disagreement among family members who may have differing views on your final wishes. With a Will in place, any ambiguity is removed in terms of how matters should be handled after you pass away.
In addition to narrating what should happen to your money and possessions, a Will also allows you to narrate who should care for your children in the event you pass away before they reach the age of legal capacity (being 16). Without a Will in place and if both you and your spouse/civil partner were to pass away, the Court will determine who should care for your children. Your Will provides you with the opportunity to state who your preferred guardian would be.
Unmarried partners are not automatically entitled to benefit from each other’s estate. If an unmarried partner wishes to claim part of their deceased partner’s estate, an application can be made to the Court by the surviving cohabitant for financial provision. However, this can often be a lengthy and expensive Court process. A Will can help avoid the need for Court intervention during what is an already difficult time.
Having a Will in place allows you to appoint what is known as an Executor. This is the person (or people) tasked with implementing the terms of your Will and carrying out your wishes. Without a Will, your closest relative(s) must apply to the Court to be appointed as executor. There is a specified hierarchy which must be followed when it comes to having an Executor appointed. With the existence of a Will, this time-consuming and expensive procedural requirement can be avoided and therefore prevent additional stress for your loved-ones.
It is possible to include funeral instructions within a Will. While the instructions are not legally binding and act as guidance only to your Executors, they can assist your family in determining your wishes when arranging your funeral. This, again, prevents ambiguity and can reduce the burden on your loved ones during a difficult time.
Reviewing & Updating your Will
It is important that you review your Will every few years to ensure it continues to meet your requirements. Family circumstances are likely to change over time and you may wish to update your Will in order to reflect such changes. For any significant changes which are required, it is best to create a new Will which shall serve, in part, to revoke any previous Wills and other testamentary writings.
A Will is particularly important if you have children, own property, have savings and investments or own a business. Everyone should have a Will in place regardless of their age or financial circumstances. A Will provides peace of mind, leaving you safe in the knowledge that your wishes have been set out clearly and thereby making the process of winding up your estate as easy as possible for your loved ones when the time comes.
Should you have any queries or wish to discuss having a Will in place, please contact our Private Client team who would be happy to assist you.
Blog by Ailidh Ballantyne, Solicitor