On 29th June, shortly after Michael Jackson's death, his family filed court papers in Los Angeles claiming he died "intestate," meaning he left no will. However, two days later, MJ's attorney produced a will written in 2002. The Jackson family did not see the will prior to its filing and had no knowledge of its contents. Their attorney said: "We wish we had known about it sooner."
Writing a will - and leaving instructions on how to find it - is one of the best things you can do for your loved ones while you are still alive. However, at least one in three people in the United Kingdom die without doing so.
Here are a few reasons why you should write a will:
1. Decide who inherits what
A will allows you to make gifts of money or specific items to individuals or charities of your choosing. If you fail to write one, everything you own passes through intestacy and will be distributed in a manner laid down by law. Depending on your circumstances, the entirety of your estate could escheat to the crown. Moreover, intestacy does not recognise unmarried partners or stepchildren. As a result, even if you've lived together for many years, your cohabitant or stepchild may be left with nothing if you do not write a will.
2. Bypass intestacy
Intestacy is time-consuming and stressful. It can take many months, sometimes years, to gain access to assets after a person dies. In the meantime, bills can pile up for those financially dependent on you.
3. Avoid disagreements
The families of famous stars like Barry White, Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix squabbled for years because they died intestate. Writing a will means your loved ones are less likely to fall out over who gets what.
4. Appoint a legal guardian for your children
Making a will allows you to
choose the person you believe will offer the best care for your children if
you're not around.
5. Minimise inheritance tax
A will allows you to plan the distribution of your
estate in order to minimise inheritance tax.
6. Set up trusts
A will allows you to set up trusts to make provisions for children or other vulnerable persons, or simply protect your assets in some way after you die.
7. Leave instructions
A will allows you to leave instructions about how you
want your body dealt with after you die.
** Additional Information & Advice **
It is possible to write a will without a solicitor's help. However, this is generally not advisable as there are various legal formalities you need to follow to ensure your will is valid, and important tax issues and other matters to consider. Without the help of an expert, there's a real risk you may make a mistake, which could cause serious problems for your loved ones after your death.
You can be matched with a solicitor who specialises in Wills and Probate in your area for free via solicitor matching services, which can also help you to understand the best course of action and whether you are ready to hire a solicitor.