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Why You Should Review Your Will

It’s a reasonable assumption to think that once you have written a will you don’t need to think about it again, but as with many things in life, it’s always worth reviewing every now and then just to make sure it’s what you still want. In fact, there are some circumstances in which reviewing your will is absolutely essential.

New Beneficiaries

If new beneficiaries enter the picture (a new baby, perhaps, or a friend who you want to leave something to) then you will definitely need to update your will. Of course, if your will simply states that you want your estate to be divided between your children, this will generally include any born after the will is written. However, if you want something specific to go to any child (or anyone else) then you will need to add it in a revision.

You Come Into Money

If you come into money after you write your will it is a good idea to review it and make sure that it is exactly what you want, bearing your new found wealth in mind. Money can change everything, and whether that’s a good thing or not, your will may be one of the things that also needs to be changed. You might find that you can give money to more people, for example, or that you want to provide for your spouse or children differently, such as writing your estate into a trust, for example.


When you get divorced you may no longer want your ex-spouse to receive any part of your estate when you die. Alternatively, you may want to give them a certain amount of money after you pass away. In either case, you will need to update your will to reflect this.

Your Spouse Dies

If your spouse died before you do, you should update your will (assuming you wanted your estate to go to them in the event of your death). If you have written a mirror will, however, this will usually be accounted for – although it never hurts to check.

You’ve Changed Your Mind

Things sometimes happen to make people change their minds about who they are leaving items or money to in their will. A falling out or a reconciliation, for example, can both mean that your will should be reviewed and changed where necessary.

What Is A Deed of Variation?

A deed of variation is an interesting document. It is awarded when it can be proved that the testator had meant to include something or someone in his or her will but neglected to, leading to an issue between family members or other people who may have assumed that they would inherit some or all of the deceased’s estate.

It can be used as a method of post-death planning, and can in fact change the testator’s will as long as there is enough evidence. This action might be required because the intended recipient chooses not to take their part of the estate, or perhaps would rather it went to their children or grandchildren instead. It could also be used if there is a way to save on inheritance tax by awarding the estate in another way.

It is potentially a difficult document to obtain because proving that the testator made an error when they are no longer here to say yes or no is a hard burden of proof.

There are some important requirements that need to be met in order to be awarded the deed of variation (or deed of family arrangement as it can sometimes be called). Firstly, it must be completed within two years of the death of the testator. Anyone who wishes to make a variation must be under 18 (although if they are under 18 they can seek the consent of the court). It is possible to obtain more than one deed of variation within those two years after death, but each asset can only be named in one.

How To Choose An Executor For Your Will

When writing a will you may think that the most important things to include revolve around who will receive what from your estate. You might even think that your funeral arrangements are a good idea to include (although you may prefer to write this in a separate letter). But what about the executor for your will? Have you given them much thought at all?

Choosing the right executor for your will is an important element to consider; it is a specific legal duty, and shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. Don’t just pick a name at random and hope that they will be fine with the task they have been given. There are other things to think about first.

So who should you appoint as an executor for your will?

The main thing you need to consider is that you will need to appoint someone you can trust, and who is responsible. If they don’t or can’t distribute your estate in accordance with your will they can be heavily fined. In some cases they can even be imprisoned so it is an extremely serious job indeed. You can choose an individual (or individuals; you can have up to four executors if you wish), a solicitor, or a professional executor.

Something that is worth pointing out to anyone who you are considering giving the task of executor to is that they can always ask for advice if they need it. A solicitor may be able to work with them to ensure that the job is done correctly. After all, it is unlikely that many people will have been an executor more than once, or more than a very small number of times if they have done it before.

If your executor finds the job too difficult to carry out (it is hard work and takes up a lot of time, which can be an issue is they have a day job as well) they can step aside. However, if you have spoken to them about the fact that you want them to be your executor and you have given them time to do the research required to confirm that they will be happy to carry out the job, they should be able to do what they are required without any problems.

What Is The Difference Between Children and Stepchildren When It Comes To Your Will?

Although in ‘real life’ it is probable that you view your children and your stepchildren in similar (if not identical) terms, from a legal point of view they are entirely different. Stepchildren don’t have any legal rights to inherit anything from their stepparents’ estates, and unless they are specifically mentioned within your will they won’t get anything. This is even true in the case of intestacy where you die without a will. If this happens, the rules of intestacy are called into action, and there is a specific series of people to whom the estate is given. Stepchildren do not feature in that list.

Unlike biological or adopted children, stepchildren have to be mentioned by name specifically within the pages of your will. This is particularly important in these days of blended families when more and more people are combining two families into one. Without knowing these details, simply writing that you want your estate to be split between your children might, to you, include your stepchildren, but in legal terms, it would not. This would obviously case hard feeling and upset.

Of course, if you don’t want to leave anything to your stepchildren then you don’t legally have to. It is best, in this case, to write a separate letter that stays with your will pointing out that this is your intention. If you don’t it might be assumed that you made an error, and the stepchildren might, therefore, apply for an amendment to the will, or even contest it because they were expecting to receive some form of inheritance. This additional letter will make it clear that you understand what you were writing in your will and that it really is your final wish.

What Is An Agreement Of Wills?

When someone dies, it is often the case that family members can run into issues regarding how the assets are going to be distributed. Whether it is someone saying that they don’t want anything from the deceased, or the family wanting to go against the wishes of the deceased and distribute the assets how they want to do it, this kind of problem can cause arguments at a difficult time.

If the deceased’s wishes need – or are requested – to be modified after the will has been executed, then the heirs all have to enter into an Agreement of Heirs. This is a written document that must be signed by everyone involved. It acknowledges that they have a right to inherit, and sets out how the new agree inheritance will be carried out, which will be different to that written within the will.

Because this is such an important document, the best advice is that it should be drawn up by a lawyer.

An Agreement of Heirs can even be created if there is no will. If the beneficiaries of the estate don’t agree with how the rules of intestacy would divide their inheritance up, they can go to a lawyer to draw up an Agreement of Heirs to show that they have discussed the estate and agree to a different course of action.

An Agreement of Heirs makes the distribution process easier, but it does not mean that probate can be skipped. Probate will still need to be carried out if the deceased owned assets that require it, no matter how differently they are distributed from what was written in the will.

The Residence Nil Rate Band – Is Your Will Up To Date?

It was back on 6th April 2017 that an additional inheritance tax relief – the Residence Nil Rate Band – was introduced. The RNRB has reduced inheritance tax for a lot of people, but it isn’t just a case of paying less. There is more to it than that.

The RNRB comes into play when a property is left to someone’s direct descendants. It comes on top of the Nil Rate Band, which currently stands at £325,000. The RNRB adds an extra £100,000 to that sum, and it is set to rise each year in line with the consumer price index. By 2020-2021, it should have reached £175,000.

Any part of the RNRB that is not used can be transferred to the surviving spouse or partner – just like with the NRB. And that may even be the case if your partner died before 6th April 2017, although it is best to get in touch with the experts to find out exactly what your rate band is.

The RNRB will only apply to estates that are valued at under £2million.

What does this mean for your will? If you have already written one, then you will need to make sure that it makes use of the tax saving nature of RNRB. This is especially important if your will contains a trust. The trusts that the RNRB will be available on are a bare trust, a trust for a bereaved minor, an immediate post death interest trust, an 18-25 trust, and a disabled person’s trust.

Although seemingly simple, the RNRB is actually a complex provision, so it is important to speak to an expert if sure you are unsure of any aspect of it.

When Should You Hire A Probate Specialist?

Probate can range between being quick and relatively easy to being incredibly difficult, lasting many months or even years. Sometimes probate isn’t required at all. It can be impossible to tell how long the probate for your loved one’s estate is going to take; even if it seems as though the estate is a simple one, there can be complications. It is often much better for people to hire probate specialists to take core of the entire job for them. There are specific times when this is essential.

One of these times is if inheritance tax is due. Inheritance tax has to be paid on any amount over the current £325,000 threshold, and the rate is at 40 percent. This can definitely complicate probate, and therefore is it best to have an expert help you with it; mistakes can be very costly.

Another reason for hiring an expert is if the deceased died intestate (without a will) and the estate is a complicated one to administer. You may also need a specialist if there is a will but there are doubts as to its validity. These things will need to be checked and double checked, and this can take time.

Sometimes people deliberately leave their family members out of their will. If this happens and children are left out of the will, they may have a claim, which is when specialists will be required to step in and take over the probate claim.

Trusts can also make probate complicated, and if there are assets in trust then you may not be able to deal with them easily. Bankruptcy also complicates matters, as debtors may need to be paid first despite the arrangements within the will.

Whenever a foreign country is involved, a probate specialist should be brought in. It could be that the deceased owned property or other assets abroad, or perhaps they lived outside of the UK at the time of their death. Either way, this can add time and complications to any probate application.

If you are confused by any aspect of probate, get in touch today. We can help.

How Can You Make Sure That Your Will Is Not Contested In Court?

Many people think that once they have written their will, that is it. There is nothing more to be said. It’s done. And while that may be the case for the majority of people, it isn’t always what happens; sometimes will can be challenged and contested in court. How can you stop that from happening?

Know The Value Of Your Estate

When it comes to writing your will, it is best to make sure that it is as accurate as possible. If you own your own property, for example, and you bought it some years ago, or you think that by the time you pass away it will be worth more than you paid for it, it will be worth getting a valuation. If you would rather not have someone come to value your home, then look around at the other houses that are for sale in your area, and compare those prices. It can come as rather a surprise to discover just how much your property really is worth. Once you know the value of your estate (not just the property, but everything else you own added together), as well as any life insurances, you will have all the information needed to decide how to distribute your estate. Make sure there is a lot of information written in the will as it is a lack of information and misunderstandings that often lead to a will being contested.

Tell People What Your Will Says

If you let people know what to expect from your will before you die, they will be prepared, even if they don’t agree with it. Hopefully they will have plenty of time to get used to the idea. Surprise can lead people to contest a will if they don’t get what they were expecting from the estate.

Update Your Will

An out of date will is a big reason for it to be contested. Life changes a lot, and it is likely that it will change from the time you wrote your will initially until the time it will need to be executed. Therefore, when these changes occur (births, deaths, marriages, additional income and property, loss of those things, business deals and so on) you must update your will to reflect the new status. You can either create a brand new will, or you can add a small change via a codicil.

How Much Time Do You Have To File A Will?

Everything can seem rather a rush after someone has died. There is so much to do, so many loose ends to tie up, and filing the will just seems like one more job to do that has to be done right now.

The good news is, there are no time limits when it comes to applying for probate. Bear in mind, though, that until you have the grant of probate, you won’t be able to divide the estate as per the instructions in the will, so although there is no particular time frame that needs to be taken into account, you might want to make applying for probate a priority in order to execute the will successfully.

There are, however, time limits for inheritance tax payments, so if the estate you are dealing with is worth more than £325,000 (or £650,000 if it was passed to the surviving spouse who then passed away) then 40 percent of anything over than amount will need to be paid to the Treasury within one year.

Although applying for probate is probably going to be the last thing you feel like doing when a loved one passes away, the longer you leave it, the longer the estate will be ‘in limbo’. It’s true that you will need time to grieve, and to arrange the funeral and secure any empty properties, but it is important to organise the distribution of the estate as well. Without probate, you won’t have the legal authority to handle any of the affairs of the diseased. Also, if things take too long, you may find that the beneficiaries become impatient, and request that you let someone else be executor.

Debts From The Dead

It is a myth to believe that your debts are wiped out when you die. Some of the smaller ones might be written off, but anything owed to a council will need to be paid by the estate, as councils have a legal duty to collect money owed to them (since it is used to benefit the public in most cases).

A recent survey showed that in Nottingham almost £260,000 is owed from the deceased, amounting to around £600 for each of the 430 estates.

It is difficult both in terms of time and because of the sensitive nature of dealing with the estates of the deceased, which is why Nottingham City Council has chosen to outsource the work; they now use a specialist company to collect the money for them. And it appears to be working. The company was tasked with collecting an initial amount of £72,074, and has so far brought in £46,608.

The council pays for the service, but feels they are still getting a good deal, as they are gathering in money they would otherwise possibly have struggled to recoup.

So it’s good news for the debt collectors, and it’s good news for the council. But what about the families of those who have passed away and now need to pay council tax arrears? Some are finding it a bitter pill to swallow, whereas other are more accepting of the bill.

What do you think? Is it right for a council to collect council tax after someone has died? And if so, is it right for them to use a specialist company to do it?


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