Wills & succession planning FAQs


Please find below our most frequently asked questions with relevant answers.

For anything further, one of our specialists would be delighted to meet you either in our office or in your own home to talk through your requirements and answer any questions. Please contact us at any time.

I’m still young, why do I need a will?

Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to own a house and substantial investments to make a will. Whilst a will does deal with such assets it can also determine who will receive the cash in your bank account(s), your personal belongings such as music/computer equipment and also the car.

For many people their twenties are a time of change. Graduating, securing your first job, buying a house and moving in with a partner can all happen in the space of a few years.

In a very short space of time you can go from having nothing to having a lot, but despite this rapid increase in responsibility, many people don’t think about protecting their assets and their families’ futures by making a will.

Under the intestacy rules, if an unmarried person without children dies without leaving a will, his or her assets will go to his/her parents (or if he/she has no living parents, then to other relatives). This might be fine while you continue to be dependent on your parents but on achieving financial independence and acquiring some assets of your own, you may begin to think differently especially if your parents are themselves already wealthy.

You may decide to make gifts into trust for the benefit of other family members, young nieces and nephews perhaps or even to a favourite charity.

If you have minor children then it is vital that you make provision for them in your will and appoint a guardian. Additionally, by making a will with a professional such as a solicitor there is also the opportunity to plan for assets that you may not have thought about such as pension plans and life policies.

As long as you are at least 18 years of age there is no reason why you should not make a will. Lots of people find the idea of making a will daunting, don’t worry a solicitor will guide you through the whole process and will understand your concerns.

For anything further, one of our specialists would be delighted to meet you either in our office or in your own home to talk through your requirements and answer any questions. Please contact us at any time.

How can I avoid paying inheritance tax?

Inheritance tax is paid if a person’s estate is worth more than £325,000 (2015/16) when they die.

This is called the nil rate band (NRB) and changes from time to time.

The rate of inheritance tax is 40% on anything above the NRB.

The rate may be reduced to 36% if 10% or more of a ‘component’ of your net estate is left to charity.

Your estate may not have to pay inheritance tax on assets that you give away before you die. There is no inheritance on any gifts made between spouses or civil partners as long as both spouse are domiciled in the UK.

This applies to lifetime gifts and gifts made by will.

Gifts to non-spouses (children for example) are treated differently.  You must live for 7 years after making such gifts for them to become exempt.

If you fail to survive the 7 year period then the person who received the gift will have to pay inheritance tax on it.

You may make up to £3,000 worth of gifts in each tax year (6 April to 5 April). This is called the ‘annual exemption’.

Leftover annual exemption can be carried over from each tax year to the next, but the maximum exemption is £6,000.

Certain gifts don’t count towards the annual exemption and no inheritance tax is due on them, eg wedding gifts (see below) and individual gifts worth up to £250.

There is no inheritance tax on a gift that was a wedding or civil partnership gift worth up to:

  • £5,000 to a child;
  • £2,500 to a grandchild or great-grandchild;
  • £1,000 to anyone else.

The gift must be given on or shortly before the date of the wedding or civil partnership ceremony.

There is no inheritance tax on individual gifts worth up to £250, unless in the same tax year you gave the same person:

  • more than £250 worth of gifts;
  • other gifts that are free from inheritance tax, e.g a wedding gift or a gift that counts towards your £3,000 annual exemption.

There is no inheritance tax on gifts from your income (after they paid tax) as long as you have enough money to maintain your normal lifestyle. The gifts include:

  • Christmas, birthday and wedding or civil partnership anniversary presents;
  • life insurance policy premiums
  • regular payments into a savings account

Claiming this exemption can be very difficult without supporting evidence.  As part of the estate planning process a solicitor can provide advice on what records you need to make in order to ensure your family will benefit from this exemption.

There is no inheritance tax on gifts to help with other people’s living costs. These include payments to:

  • a former spouse or former civil partner;
  • a relative who’s dependent on you because of old age, illness or disability;
  • a child (including adopted and step-child) under 18 years old or in full-time education.

There is no inheritance tax on gifts to charities, museums, universities, political parties or community amateur sports clubs.

You can pass on some agricultural property free of inheritance tax, either during your lifetime or as part of your will.

Business property relief reduces the value of a business or its assets for inheritance purposes.

Reviewing the structure of your affairs whilst making a will means that changes can be made (if required) to mitigate the inheritance tax liability by ensuring that valuable agricultural and business property reliefs can be claimed.

For anything further, one of our specialists would be delighted to meet you either in our office or in your own home to talk through your requirements and answer any questions. Please contact us at any time.

Can I gift a share of my house in a will?

Yes but it is vital that you obtain legal advice to ensure that your property is held in such a way that it can be left under the terms of your will.

Property can be held in one of two ways either as joint tenants or tenants in common.

Property held as joint tenants will pass to the surviving co-owner upon the first death regardless of the terms of any will.

If property is held as tenants in common then you are free to leave your share of the property under your will.

For anything further, one of our specialists would be delighted to meet you either in our office or in your own home to talk through your requirements and answer any questions. Please contact us at any time.

What does severance of joint tenancy mean?

A severance of joint tenancy is a legal document which changes the ownership of property from joint tenants to tenants in common.

The change can be made without the other owner’s agreement. However, it is very important that the other owner is given notice of the change.

A solicitor can prepare both the legal paperwork and ensure that the appropriate notice is served on the other owner.

For anything further, one of our specialists would be delighted to meet you either in our office or in your own home to talk through your requirements and answer any questions. Please contact us at any time.

What happens to my pets after I die?

In the confusion that accompanies a person’s unexpected illness, accident, or death, pets may be overlooked. In some cases, pets are discovered in the person’s home days after the tragedy. To prevent this from happening to your pet, take these simple precautions:

find at least two responsible friends or relatives who agree to serve as temporary emergency caregivers in the event that something unexpected happens to you. Provide them with keys to your home; feeding and care instructions; the name of your vet; and information about the permanent care provisions you have made for your pet; &

affix to the inside of your front and back doors a removable notice listing emergency contact names and phone numbers. Because pets need care daily and will need immediate attention should you die or become incapacitated, the importance of making these informal arrangements for temporary caregiving cannot be overemphasized.

The best way to make sure your wishes are fulfilled is by also making formal arrangements that specifically cover the care of your pet. It is not enough that long ago your friend verbally promised to take in your animal or even that you’ve decided to leave money to your friend for that purpose. Work with solicitor to draw up a special will to provide for the care and ownership of your pet as well as the money necessary to care for it.

For anything further, one of our specialists would be delighted to meet you either in our office or in your own home to talk through your requirements and answer any questions. Please contact us at any time.

What if a beneficiary dies before me?

Your will can be specially worded to deal with such an eventuality.

You can name a substitute person to inherit the gift in place of the original beneficiary should he or she die before you.

For anything further, one of our specialists would be delighted to meet you either in our office or in your own home to talk through your requirements and answer any questions. Please contact us at any time.

When should I review my will?

It is a good idea to review your will every 3 – 5 years.

Also check your will after major life changes including the death of one of your beneficiaries, the birth of a potential new beneficiary, a significant shift in your financial situation and upon any decision to marry or divorce.

For anything further, one of our specialists would be delighted to meet you either in our office or in your own home to talk through your requirements and answer any questions. Please contact us at any time.

Where can I store my will?

It is not advisable to store your original will at home.

It ought to be stored in a safe and secure place free from fire risk. Some banking institutions will store your will but may charge a fee for doing so.

A solicitor can also store your will and usually will not make a charge.

For anything further, one of our specialists would be delighted to meet you either in our office or in your own home to talk through your requirements and answer any questions. Please contact us at any time.

What happens if I do not make a will?

If you die without a will a set of legal rules called intestacy will apply to the distribution of your estate.

The intestacy rules are very strict and decide who in your family will inherit your estate and in what proportions.

It is a common misconception for married couples and civil partners to believe that their other half will receive their entire estate so that a will is not needed. This may not be the case at all.

For anything further, one of our specialists would be delighted to meet you either in our office or in your own home to talk through your requirements and answer any questions. Please contact us at any time.

I have made a DIY will, is it legal?

Online and DIY wills can cause so many costly problems after your death.

Such wills are often poorly constructed so that a partial intestacy may arise, a guardian may not have been appointed and opportunities to mitigate inheritance tax/care home fees are regularly missed.

Often the correct signing procedure has not been followed.

If you have a DIY or homemade will it is worth seeking advice from a solicitor to check whether or not it is valid and is appropriate for your family.

For anything further, one of our specialists would be delighted to meet you either in our office or in your own home to talk through your requirements and answer any questions. Please contact us at any time.