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Do I need a will?

Business expert Katherine Rowell from D&K Wills talks us through how important it is to create a will and what you need to consider.

This is one of the first questions that I get asked, why do I need a will? While the primary purpose of your last will and testament is to distribute any property you own in the event of your death, you will need to consider other factors that may affect your decisions.

There are many answers to this question depending on people’s circumstances but in the interest of speed I have dealt with five of the most common below:

1. To make distributing your estate easier for your family on your death. With no will in place someone will have to apply to be the ‘administrator’ of the estate – sounds simple enough. However, who is going to be the someone? Normally this must be the next of kin (unmarried partners need not apply). Separated husbands/wives/civil partners can still apply! They then need to apply for the Letter of Administration which involves a postal application form and an interview with the Probate Registry.

2. When a person
dies without leaving a valid will, their property (the estate) must be shared out according to certain rules. You do not want your estate to be left as per the ‘laws of intestacy’. When this happens, the intestacy laws of the state where you reside will determine how your property is distributed upon your death.

3. You have a more complex family set-up, for example, stepchildren and second marriages both of which may alter the provisions made under a will.

4. You have minor children. Without a will, listing a guardianship should both parents die mean surviving children will be put into foster care until the social care system allocates a carer for them, this is normally done through the courts. A guardianship within a will is a simple clause which makes a legally binding request as to who will look after your children.

5. You want to take the pressure off your family with your wishes laid out in a clear fashion for them to follow.

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