Making a Will and ensuring that your assets are divided amongst your beneficiaries in the way best suited to your personal circumstances is very important.
If the deceased has not left a Will the law decides who inherits the estate. This can result in a distribution of assets that would not have been the wishes of the deceased and can be especially problematic for cohabiters (a couple who live together but are not married and have not entered into a civil partnership). The rules as to what makes a Will valid or legally binding are complicated and it is best to seek proper advice before making a Will as there are many variables to be considered including doing so in the most tax efficient way.
At its most basic, in order for a Will to be valid, the Testator must have been capable of doing so at the time that it was made. The testator must also have been of sound mind, memory and understanding. The Will must be in writing, must have been signed by the testator and also witnessed. In the future, if the testator’s personal circumstances or wishes change it, it can be altered. There are also a number of ways that it can be revoked, one of which is when the testator intentionally destroys the document.
The Will can also be replaced by a new draft or codicil. Even when a valid draft is in place, arguments between family members, beneficiaries or personal representatives can arise. Any disagreements must be sorted out before the affairs of the person who died can be settled. This has often been so contentious that it has been left to the Courts to decide if a Will made by a deceased person was valid or invalid So there are case laws which can settle any dispute no matter how difficult.
Surprisingly, a Will can also be changed after death. This can be done by what is known as a Deed of Variation. This can be done up to two years from the date of death and is most often done to reduce Inheritance Tax liability, help the tax position of a beneficiary or help someone who was left out of the reading. A Deed of Variation can only be executed upon the agreement of all the beneficiaries. It is more complicated if children are involved as they cannot themselves consent to changes.
Consider reading more with our article on Probate.