Recent years have seen fewer people making wills. Recent years have also seen a noticeable increase in cases involving people who have died with invalid wills, or with no will.
In both cases, the result is property, possessions and money that are tied up in litigation often for years. A further result is pain and further grief for the families concerned, and family and legal disputes. If only to avoid such pain, it is important to make a will.
Wills, probate and related legal matters fall under equity, well known in the legal world for being a complicated area of law. Wills and related documents need to follow the right formats, and to have the correct provisions under law. The rules of equity in some cases even dictate the exact words that need to be used.
Equity has its origins in Norman and Mediaeval England. As such, over the centuries it has evolved into a very complex, ponderous, and above all, formal area of law. The formalities, formula and conventions of equity must be strictly kept to to ensure that your will is valid. Despite the complexities, the rules of equity are there to protect you: those archaic rules ensure that your property is classed on to whoever you decide should inherit, and in what form.
With that in mind, when considering a will and treatment, it is vital to consult a lawyer. Even researching the principles of equity and the basics of will writing, and devising your own will are no substitute for getting an expert to write such an important document for you. A layman can easily make so many mistakes, or be unaware of so many legal matters, that their will will in most cases be declared invalid, or result in upset as provisions cannot be honoured. A lawyer will be able to ensure that your will is drafted in line with current legislation and rules, allows all bequests to be honoured, and above all remains valid.
When considering who to leave what property to, a lawyer will be able to advised you that some things you may want to do might not be possible at law, for whatever reason. However, in most cases, your lawyer will be able to come up with an alternative solution or suggestion.
As has been mentioned, equity has a ritual and language seemingly all of its own. All of which, however, makes perfect sense. One example is that the vast majority of wills will start with the phrase ‘I hereby revoke all other wills and testaments.’ Although cumbersome, what that means is that that will is the latest and most current expression of your plans for your possessions and property. That in itself is a fact worth remembering; that will will remain in place, and legally enforcible, until you draft and sign a new will.
Further, the wording used is quite important, with some words having a slightly different meaning to the equity lawyer and will drafter. Take, for example, a ‘gift.’ To the layman, that is often another term for a present. To the equity lawyer, a gift is property that passes (or will pass) to another without anything expected in return, and often with all the rights of ownership. Much property and possessions can be passed to another in a will, without the rights of ownership, or with conditions attached. It is therefore important to choose the right word – and the right manner in which to bequeath your property.
Once again, that merely serves to highlight the importance of having your will written by a professional expert. Although expensive, although time consuming in hours spent in consultations – it is a small price for peace of mind, for yourself and for your family.
Indeed, whilst consulting with a lawyer, they will be able to advised you as to several things you might be able to do with your possessions and property, for the benefit of your family – often things you were unaware of. A good example is a trust fund. Trust funds are popularly perceived as vast sums of money inherited by the rich. That is, in reality, not the case. Under equity, a trust can be made of most property, and can be structured in a variety of different ways. For example, the family home, in some cases, can be made into a trust under equity,and passed on as such. Money or possessions can be willed to various people in complete anonymity, if you so desire, or if it is necessary.
Those examples just go to show the mysterious ways of equity, and the various ways money and property can be passed on in your will. Without a will though – it is hard for your family and friends to inherit anything as you desire. That is why it is so important to consider such matters, and to consult a lawyer regarding making a will. Not only will that bring peace of mid to you – but it will make things much easier, and less painful for your family later on.