Writing a Will is one of the few areas of law which is as yet fairly untouched by recent advancements in technology.
The legal framework itself is still set out in an act first drafted in 1887, which states that for a Will to be valid, it must be in writing, signed by the testator in the presence of two or more witnesses present at the same time. Electronic signatures, apps and even the internet were clearly not envisaged when the Wills Act was drafted 179 years ago.
It’s therefore not surprising that many tech entrepreneurs and business owners give little thought to the process of making a Will and join the estimated 62% of the adult population who do not have one. Although writing a Will probably doesn’t feature highly their list of things to do, it should do - as without a Will they have no control over who their assets pass to in the event of their demise.
Our private client department regularly experience horror stories, where people have died having failed to make adequate provision for their families and loved ones. Unfortunately, there are a number of misconceptions that lead people into a false sense of security that their family members will be adequately provided for if they die without a Will. Most of these misconceptions are incorrect and we have listed two below that regularly prove problematic:
- Common law marriage: There is actually no such thing and if you pass away, unmarried without a Will, your partner is not entitled to a thing.
- If married, all of your assets will pass to your spouse: Again incorrect, your spouse is entitled to the first £250,000 together with chattels, but the remainder is divided between the children and the spouse. Bearing in mind the value of most properties in the south, this can be particularly problematic where the children are under 18. It can also put the spouse at risk if the children are over 18 and experiencing matrimonial or financial difficulties.
Turning to the implications on businesses, without a Will, business assets may be divided between unsuitable or unintended beneficiaries, potentially causing serious problems for the business. Furthermore, important reliefs from inheritance tax may be wasted that would otherwise be available to business owners, such as tech entrepreneurs.
Making a Will is a relatively straightforward and cost effective process and is the only way to be certain that you have provided for your families and the future of your business. For more information about making a Will or if you require any additional information about any of the issues raised above, please don’t hesitate to contact a member of our team.