Making a Will in Northern Ireland

Research shows that many people do not have a Will. By not preparing a Will, you inevitably would cause difficulties for those you leave behind at a time which is already distressing. If you are unmarried and have no close relatives, your estate will automatically pass to the Crown if there is no valid Will in place.

Regardless of whether you are extremely wealthy or only have a few assets, there are many valid reasons why you should still make a Will, such as:

* If you die without a Will, there are certain rules which dictate how the money, property or possessions should be allocated. This may not be the way that you would have wished your money and possessions to be distributed.

* Many married couples assume that if they do not make a Will their estate will pass automatically to each other on death. This however is not automatic and could result in Inheritance Tax becoming payable on your estate, whereas if a Will was made leaving everything to your spouse your estate would have been exempt from Inheritance Tax.

* Partners who are not married, even if they live together and have children, will not be entitled to inherit from their partner’s estate, so the death of one partner may create financial problems for the surviving partner.

* A Will can provide you with the opportunity to appoint a Guardian for your children in the event of your death. A lack of provision for Guardians could result in Court proceedings after your death to determine where your children should live.

* If your circumstances have changed, it is important that you make a Will to ensure that your money and possessions are distributed according to your wishes. If you are separated from your spouse and have not made a Will, your ex-husband or ex-wife could inherit all or part of your estate.

* If you own a business or a farm, preparing a Will should be an important aspect of your Succession Planning. This will allow you to pass on ownership of your business or farm to whomever you choose to be your successor on death. If you do not have a Will, your farm, for example, could be divided between a number of relatives, leading to disputes and even the break-up of a farm which may have been in the family name for years.

It is very important to have an up-to-date Will, which sets out clearly how the estate is to be divided. It is also just as important to limit your exposure to inheritance tax by structuring your Will in a way that allows you to utilise certain inheritance tax exemptions. Inheritance tax can be a complicated issue, so you should always ensure that you seek the proper tax advice you need to prepare for your future.

Once your Will has been made it should be regularly updated, in order to take account of any changes to your business, assets and tax laws. All Wills should be prepared with both solicitor and accountant involvement as your estate will involve both legal and tax aspects. Fundamentally, we would recommend that everyone makes a Will in order to safeguard their final wishes.