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There are a number of misconceptions people have about probate, estates and Wills. Below are some of the most common

1. My debts will die with me

Not correct. Your executors will be responsible for discharging your debts and liabilities after you die. Debts are only written off if there are insufficient funds in your estate following liquidation of your assets.

2. ‘Common law marriage’

If someone cohabits with their partner and they don’t have a Will, they may assume that their partner will automatically inherit all of their assets when they die. This is incorrect. If you are unmarried, your partner receives nothing automatically from your estate under the Intestacy Rules in England & Wales. (Although, they may in certain circumstances be able to bring a claim against your estate, there is no guarantee).

3. A Will cannot be challenged

Some people wrongly believe that their Will cannot be varied or challenged once they have died. In fact there are a number of ways in which Wills can be challenged. There are no guarantees that the wishes set out in a Will are always carried out. However, there are ways to reduce the risks of a claim being made. An experienced lawyer will be able to provide guidance on this point.

4. I don’t own any property, so I don’t need a Will

A Will can make it much easier for everything to be sorted out when you die. If you don’t have a Will everything that you own will be shared out in a standard way defined by the Intestacy Rules – which often isn’t the way you might want. Even if you don’t own much now, this may very well have changed at the time of your death and a Will can help to reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax that you pay. Writing a Will is especially important if you have children or other family who depend on you financially.

5. Wills don’t need to be reviewed

A Will can be expected to reflect your circumstances at the time it is made. So as your personal circumstances change, for example if you marry, move home, have children, divorce or come into money, you should review your Will to see whether or not it still accurately reflects your circumstances and wishes.

6. Low cost is always good value

As with any service, you usually get what you pay for. Choosing on price alone might result in getting an acceptable job done, but is this enough? There is no point having a Will unless you are confident that it will work when the time comes. The quality of available Will services can vary greatly as the Will writing industry is unregulated in England & Wales. Some services may be ineffective or may not provide you with any recourse when things go wrong. Researching and selecting a law firm that you can trust will reassure you on the quality of service.

7. Time limits don’t apply

After assets have been distributed out of an estate, it becomes much more difficult to recover them. If you have a claim against an estate or concerns about the validity of a Will, it is very important to act quickly in raising these issues and obtain specialist legal advice. In some cases, the relevant time limit can be as little as six months from the date of the grant of probate.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.