What will you put in your Will?

 03 June 2024
What will you put in your Will?

Wills are a fundamental part of your estate planning, defining who should receive what - and who doesn't. Written clearly and with professional help, your Will should ensure your estate is shared amongst those you wish to include, to create a personal legacy into the future.

However, a survey by Canada Life UK in 2023 found that:

  • "One in three (33%) adults who are aged 55 and over don't have a Will
  • Almost one in six (14%) don't ever intend on making a Will in the future
  • A quarter of those without a Will don’t think they have enough wealth to require them to make one
  • Over two fifths (41%) have zero concerns about not having a will.”

The last stat is perhaps the most worrying, in that this could results in billions of pounds of assets and money being tied up in legal processes for years, when it could be helping people and building a legacy.

No living relatives or family?

You should still make a Will, to ensure that your legacy continues to benefit people after your death. This could include leaving your entire estate or portions of it as bequests to charities and good causes.

You could also establish a trust fund, or leave meaningful amounts and items to friends and those who have helped you during your life.

No Will and no relatives?

If you die intestate (without a Will) and appear to have no surviving relatives, your local council will deal with both your estate and your funeral. Once your estate pays for your funeral, the council will then investigate to discover more about you, before your estate passes to the government Legal Department's Treasury Solicitor.

If after further investigation no relatives can be traced, your estate is then placed on the "bona vacantia" list. You may have seen TV programmes such as "Heir Hunters", where companies with teams of genealogists scour this list and do in-depth research across multiple family lines to find missing relatives. These companies or sometimes freelance genealogists then contact the beneficiaries and submit claims to the inheritance on behalf of the relatives for a fee.

You can check the list for yourself and put in a claim without using an agency - see here for full details.

Claiming an estate on the "bona vacantia" list

Once on the "bona vacantia" list, an estate can be claimed for up to 12 years. After 12 years, the estate is declared as "ownerless" and it is passed to the Crown. Even then, you can make a claim, as the Bona Vacantia division website explains:

“BVD will admit fully documented claims up to 30 years from the date of death, subject to no interest being paid on the money held, if the claim is received after the 12 year period above has run out.”

Want to spread some unexpected happiness?

Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral da Camara was a wealthy Portuguese aristocrat with no children to leave his estate to. Instead, in 1994, in front of two witnesses, he chose 70 people randomly from the Lisbon phone book as his beneficiaries.

On his death in 2007:

“When solicitors contacted the beneficiaries to let them know about their share of the estate, which included a luxury 12-room apartment in Lisbon, a huge country house and tens of thousands of euros, some of them thought they were being scammed.”

Want to take care of your pets in you Will?

Your pet cannot inherit as such, but you can set up a Pet Trust appointing trustees to look after them after you die. For more details, and some very wealthy celebrity pet examples, see our blog.

Or make a social comment?

When he died in 1926, Canadian lawyer Charles Vance Millar left $600,000 in his Will to the family that had the most children over the following 10-year period. Millar supported birth control, and whilst his bequest might have been a form of social commentary, four mothers with nine children each received $125,000. That's equivalent to around £1.7million today.

Want to write a Will?

Contact Paul, our experienced will writer and member of the Society of Will Writers.

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During our initial discussion Panthera (Paul) fully explained the Will making process. We were made aware that our assets could be exposed to various risks such as Care Costs. Panthera (Paul) advised on how we could protect these assets by setting up Family Trusts. Having decided to go down this route Panthera (Paul) provided all the legal documentation in a timely manner despite having to work within the constraints of Covid-19 restrictions.

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