Death and taxes may be two of life's certainties, but an astutely planned Will can ensure that assets are disposed of according to your wishes.

A Will is a legal document whereby you express your wishes as to how you wish your property to be distributed upon your death. If you hold assets, including a house, it is not only prudent but essential to set down in writing to whom you wish to leave your assets upon your death. A will is the only way to make sure that your estate is left to the people and groups you care about.  It is extremely important to make a will if you have young children or a child with a disability or vulnerability. A will can help to avoid family disputes as to who should inherit your estate and safeguard your children’s interests.

In your will you appoint one or more people, in whom you place trust, to act as executors of your estate upon your death. This appointment means they are legally responsible, with professional assistance, for ensuring that the wishes expressed in your will are carried out.

A will enables your executor to apply for what is known as a Grant of Probate from the High Court. This is a legally binding document that guarantees your property is distributed in accordance with your wishes.  A Grant of Probate is recognised by banks and financial institutions and also allows for property to be sold.

When considering drawing up a will you should plan not only for the short term but other eventualities, so that if your spouse or partner predeceased you or died at the same time, then you should decide to whom you would wish to leave your estate in such circumstances and, if the children of the family are under 18, the names of those people that you want to act as executors and trustees for your children until such times as they reach adulthood and can inherit your estate. It is always preferable to appoint two such responsible persons, within the jurisdiction, so at least one person is always accessible and aware of any needs of your children. A will can reflect these wishes and a Grant of Probate give effect to them.

It is also possible, with a carefully drafted will, to reduce the Inheritance Tax payable after your death.

Inheritance Tax isn’t normally paid on anything you leave to your spouse or civil partner who has their permanent home in the UK but it is chargeable at 40% on estates valued over £325,000.00, unless you leave all your estate to a spouse or civil partner. In addition, anything you leave to a charity will be exempt from Inheritance Tax.

The Treasury has also declared that those leaving their homes, or the sale proceeds of their dwelling house, to their children or grandchildren will be entitled to an additional exemption from Inheritance Tax of up to £100,000 from April 2017 and this will increase by £25,000 each year until it reaches £175,000 in April 2020.

Mc Atamney Solicitors are well versed in will drafting on behalf of their clients and can guide you through this process, including an application for a Grant of Probate and assisting in the administration of an estate in accordance with the deceased’s wishes.

Your will, once drafted and executed, can also be retained by us of free of charge in secure storage, offering you peace of mind and a copy can be made available to you at any time should you wish to review or update your will. It is important that if your personal circumstances change in any significant way then you should review your will with us and see if any amendments are required.

If a person dies without making a will then they are said to have died intestate and the law shall then decide how their estate is administered in accordance with what are known as the rules of intestacy and the estate may not distributed in the manner intended by the deceased. The law as set out in the Administration of Estates Act (NI) 1955 shall decide who is entitled to deal with the deceased’s estate and who should inherit.

Depending on the size of your estate, your spouse or civil partner will inherit your estate but there are certain circumstances in which they will not receive everything.

If you were not married or in a civil partnership but living together at the date of death you will not automatically get any share of your partner’s estate in the absence of a will. You may then have to make an application under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) NI Order 1979.

This can be a complicated process and it is important to obtain professional assistance at the earliest opportunity but the complexities underline the importance of making a will to avoid this scenario.

In circumstances where the deceased has died intestate it will be necessary to apply to the High Court for what is known as a Grant of Letters of Administration.  Banks and other financial institutions recognise the Grant as proof that a person to whom it has been issued, has the legal right to obtain and distribute monies held by the deceased at the date of their death. It allows for the sale of any property held by the Deceased.

Mc Atamney Solicitors can offer advice on the rules of intestacy and assist in an application for such a Grant and in the administration of the deceased’s estate.

We charge a fixed fee for our will drafting service and if you want to obtain further details please telephone or email us and we will promptly respond.

If you wish to make a will or simply seek general advice on these issues please contact our offices and we will be happy to advise.