Birmingham Post column 22 July 2013



The one thing that is certain about life is that death will follow. Fewer than 40 per cent of the population of England and Wales currently hold a will. This is an unfortunate statistic given the financial problems that death may bring.


Many assume that if they have a spouse and children that their assets will pass to their spouse and then on to their children. This is not necessarily the case, as a spouse on death is currently entitled to receive £250,000 from the deceased’s estate, together with any joint property. The balance of the deceased’s estate is then held on trust, with half of the income passing to the spouse and the other half to the children.

The capital held on trust passes to the children following the death of the spouse (there are different rules where there are no children).

A simple will, leaving everything to a spouse and then, on their death, to the children, can override potential difficult legal issues at the stroke of a pen.

There are a multitude of reasons why people should hold a will. Consider, for instance, the difficulties that a second marriage may bring where there are children born of both the earlier and subsequent relationship. What happens to the control of a family run company on the death of the major shareholder? The problems of a disabled child might also perhaps have to be taken into account. Are assets held overseas?

Inheritance Tax can be complicated but can equally be simplistic in many family situations. If you leave your entire estate to your spouse there is no Inheritance Tax payable and upon the death of the second spouse the estate will benefit by a double-up of the Inheritance Tax relief, currently £325,000.00, so that £650,000.00 may be carried forward on the second death.

Did you know that with the consent of all beneficiaries over the age of 18 that the contents of the will may be varied within two years of the death of the testator? These, and many other issues, can be covered by the completion of a simple will.

Please do seek legal advice before it is too late to do so. The cost of the preparation of a legally drawn will is minimal compared to the financial problems that may arise if you bury your head in the sand – forgive the pun!

Martin Allsopp is President of Birmingham Law Society