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Making a will

You should certainly see a Solicitor to make your Will. Wills made by unqualified Will-making firms may be inadequate or even invalid. Also making a "home made" Will isn't a good idea. People, including Will writers, often won't express wishes and intentions very clearly. A good Solicitor will make sure the Will says what you intended and will not just set down your wishes in legal language, but will suggest things to you that you may not have considered at all.

Everyone should consider making a Will. If you don't, then you would die "intestate" and in most cases what you own at death will be divided up by law according to the rules of intestacy and will go to your surviving relatives in a particular order.

If an unmarried couple live together and only one owns the house, it is important to consider making a Will to give the non-owning party some rights or security otherwise they will have no automatic rights if the owner of the property dies and would probably have to leave the house.

If a couple have a child or children of whom they are both the parents the non-owning parent won't have any automatic rights to stay in the house or have a share in the house or any other assets of the deceased parent or any right to financial support from the estate of the deceased house owner.

There is no such thing as a "common law spouse". The children would in fact inherit everything and the problem for the surviving parent is that he or she would have to make a claim in effect against his or her own children in order to get some financial support. If the children are under 18, then the Court would have to approve any settlement and these cases are inevitably complicated and costly, not to mention very traumatic at such a time.

Accordingly, it is particularly important for unmarried couples or those who haven't entered into a civil partnership (and indeed relatives or friends who share a home and expect to do so on a permanent basis) to make a Will.

Even for couples who are married or in a civil partnership, the rules of intestacy don't necessarily mean that the whole of a deceased spouse or partner's assets will go to the survivor. The rules are complicated for money over a certain amount and depend whether the couple or the deceased have children or other living relatives.

Another good reason for making a Will is if you have children by an earlier relationship whom you would like to inherit some part of your estate. You may wish your children to benefit instead of or as well as an existing spouse/civil partner or other partner. Again the rules of intestacy are complicated and it isn't safe to hope your wishes will come about without making a Will because they probably won't.

You may also have to manage your assets in a way which ties in with your wishes expressed in your Will. The best example is where two or more people own a property jointly and it may be that apart from making a Will, action should be taken to enable your share of a property to be given away in your Will.

When you make a Will, your Solicitor can also ensure that you make provisions in it which assist your executors/trustees to deal with the winding up of the estate, invest the money and property to the best effect after your death and to give your executors/trustees the powers they need.

A Will can also give a non-owning spouse or partner or other occupiers such as children the right to continue to live in the home after the owner's death which may be a valuable benefit to the survivor(s), with the home later ultimately going to the deceased's intended beneficiaries, though the possible Inheritance Tax implications of this have to be thought through.

The above are examples of some of the circumstances in which it would be advisable to make a Will. However most peoples' financial affairs would benefit from their making a Will. I am happy to discuss the possibility of making a Will at any time and the likely costs.

It is important to consider making a Will while you are still relatively young. Another section deals with Lasting Powers of Attorney and a Will, like a Lasting Power of Attorney, can't be made once a person ceases to be mentally capable.