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Making a will

Who should make a will?
If you care about what happens to your property after you die, you should make a will. Without one, the State directs who inherits, so your friends, favourite charities and relatives may get nothing.

It is particularly important to make a will if you are not married or are not in a registered civil partnership (a legal arrangement that gives same-sex partners the same status as a married couple). This is because the law does not automatically recognise cohabitants (partners who live together) as having the same rights as husbands, wives and civil partners. As a result, even if you’ve lived together for many years, your cohabitant may be left with nothing if you have not made a will.

A will is also vital if you have children or dependants who may not be able to care for themselves. Without a will there could be uncertainty about who will look after or provide for them if you die.

Your solicitor can also advise you on how inheritance tax affects what you own.

You should also consider taking legal advice about making a will if:

 

Once you have had a will drawn up, some changes to your circumstances – for example, marriage, civil partnership, separation, divorce or if your civil partnership is dissolved (legally ended) – can make all or part of that will invalid or inadequate. This means that you must review your will regularly, to reflect any major life changes. A solicitor can tell you what changes may be necessary to update your will.

Probate

When a person dies, someone has to deal with their affairs. This is called ‘administering the estate’.

If the person who has died leaves a will

 

If there is no will

Some more legal terms you may come across

Personal representatives (PRs)
This means executors or administrators. If there is more than one personal representative they must work together to decide matters between them. Disagreements between personal representatives can cause expensive delays.

Grants of representation
This includes grants of probate (when there is a will) and grants of letters of administration (when there is no will). Often people just refer to probate even if there is no will.

When a grant of representation is needed

However, some financial organisations may require a grant before giving you access even to a small amount of money. Usually, a grant of representation will be needed when the person who has died left: