Sheffield Wills and Probate Solicitors

Did you know that only three of every ten adults in Britain have a Will?

No one likes to think about their death but having a well-written Will can give you the comfort of knowing your loved ones will be looked after when you are gone, and that your assets will be distributed the way you want them to be. Spencers Solicitors have been serving the community for more than four decades and as Sheffield Wills and Probate solicitors they can help with everything from writing a Will including trusts, Lasting Power of Attorneys, Court of Protection to overseeing the administration of your estate as executors.

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Why is it important to have a Will?

We cannot stress how important it is that you make a valid Will. Even if you are young, fit and healthy, life can take unexpected turns which may mean your loved ones are left with little or nothing in the event of your death. If you have assets, then you should have a Will. Dying without a Will, called being intestate, means you have no say in who will inherit your property.

Some clients we speak to who do not have a Will mistakenly assume their partner will inherit their estate, or that verbally expressing their wishes to your next of kin will be enough. Unfortunately, neither of these is true. Here are some facts about Wills you may find surprising:

  • Your spouse or partner will not necessarily inherit your entire estate
  • If you are estranged from your spouse but still legally married, they can inherit the majority of your estate
  • A surviving partner (not married or in a civil partnership) has no automatic claim to your assets
  • The law decides who inherits your assets if you do not leave a Will so someone that you did not want to inherit could end up inheriting your entire estate.
  • If the estate is worth less than £250,000, the entire estate goes to your legal spouse with no provision for your children
  • If the estate is worth more than £250,000, this amount goes to the surviving spouse with the remainder being split 50% to the surviving spouse and 50% divided equally amongst surviving children, or amongst their grandchildren, if they have predeceased you

Another disadvantage of dying intestate is that it takes much longer for your estate to be finalised which could mean your loved ones struggle financially during this time.

Making a Will

The process of making a will is relatively straightforward with the help of a Wills and Probate solicitor who understands the process. They will ensure your Will is prepared and executed correctly and that:

  • You understand what you are signing, and you are not being coerced or forced into agreeing to the Will’s contents
  • You can sign a legal document - that is, that you are not under the age of 18 or mentally incapacitated
  • You sign in the presence of two witnesses, both of whom are present at the same time and neither of them are beneficiaries

You should always get professional legal advice from a solicitor when making a Will, particularly if you own property with someone who is not your spouse or civil partner. It also is sensible to ask for guidance if you have children from other marriages or relationships and don’t want them to inherit equally, you want to make financial provision for a particular person who is not your spouse or child, or you have overseas assets.

What Does an Executor Do?

The executor of a Will is the person charged with the responsibility of administering the estate of the testator on their death. They will:

  • Make sure the death has been registered and the death certificate issued
  • Send a copy of the death certificate to any organisation where the testator had money or assets and requests an accurate valuation, details of any interest or income earned during the current tax year.
  • Requests all accounts be frozen to ensure no assets are removed without the correct legal authority
  • Obtain information of all of the estate’s debtors and creditors
  • Prepare a full list of all money, property, debts, and outstanding loans
  • Open a bank account in the name of the estate
  • Submit a tax return on behalf of the estate and pay any tax due
  • Request a Grant of Probate
  • Calculate and pay inheritance tax
  • Pay all debts including legal fees, probate fees, and Executor expenses
  • Distribute the estate as per the Will or as per intestacy laws

Managing an estate can be complex and time-consuming, especially if the estate is in debt after all bills are calculated, or there are complicated clauses regarding businesses and trusts. It is not uncommon for an Executor to enlist a specialist Wills and Probate solicitor to carry out these tasks on their behalf. Spencers Solicitors will deal efficiently with all aspects of handling probate and estate administration. Talk to our team today to find out more about how we can help you if you are an Executor.

Making a Claim against an Estate where you have not been made a Beneficiary

In addition to helping people write Wills and administer estates, Spencers Solicitors can assist if you want to make a claim against an estate. You do not have to be a nominated beneficiary to contest a Will, but you do have to be either:

  • Husband, Wife or Civil Partner for at least 2 years
  • A former spouse or civil partner who has not remarried and who did not have a financial settlement as part of the divorce
  • Financially dependent on the deceased to maintain a reasonable standard of living
  • A biological child, adopted child, or stepchild

There are other reasons that you can dispute a Will for example:

  • It may be invalid due to it being incorrectly witnessed
  • The person making the Will did not understand what they were doing (lacked capacity to make the Will)
  • The person making the Will may have been unduly influenced.
  • The Will that has been used was not their last Will
  • The Will that has been used is void due to a later marriage
  • The Will was drawn up incorrectly

Each case is considered by the court on it’s own merits and being in the above category will not automatically mean that your claim will be successful. The court will consider the nature of the claim, the relationship of the claimant to the testator, the effect that granting the claim will have on the other beneficiaries, and any financial responsibility the testator has towards the claimant and the beneficiaries.

There are several reasons a person may raise a claim against an estate. One of the most common causes is when a person feels they have not been provided for adequately in the estate. This reason is covered under the Inheritance Act 1975, which allows six months from when the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration are issued for a person to start a claim. A beneficiary who is making a claim against an estate has 12 years from the date of the death to make a claim, while there is no time limit if someone is disputing a Will on the belief that is fraudulent.

While we always advise executors to apply for a Grant of Probate as soon as practical, it can be more beneficial for those challenging the Will to do so before probate is issued. We can help you apply for a caveat to be placed on the estate so no assets can be disposed of until your challenge is resolved.

An example where a Will was challenged featured the sibling of a woman who inherited their mother’s entire estate. The disinherited sibling contested the Will and requested the estate be divided equally between the siblings. The sister named as the beneficiary and frequently visited her mother, undertaking household chores, and driving her mother to social events and medical appointments as she did not feel confident on public transport.

The disinherited sibling had not spoken to their mother for several years, lived abroad, and was financially independent. The sibling contested the Will on the belief that their mother had been coerced into changing her will to favour the sister. The claim was investigated and witness statements were taken, but all evidence showed that the mother was not under any pressure to disinherit her other child, or that she did not understand what she was signing. The court ruled in favour of the original beneficiary.

Call Spencers Solicitors today. With more than forty years experience and local offices, we are ideally placed to help with any Will and probate requirement you have, from preparing a Will to making a claim against an estate.

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Why Choose Spencers Solicitors?

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