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Dealing with death in the family

| Graeme Hills | 3 November 2018

Losing a loved one has a profound impact on families and relationships. Not only is death a difficult personal trauma to cope with, but complications can arise when there are no clear instructions left by the deceased. 

60 percent of UK adults do not have a Will, leaving family members in the dark about how they would like their assets to be distributed, adding strain to relationships and sometimes causing conflict. When a person dies without a Will, the law of intestacy applies. 

Under this law, only married or civil partners and other close relatives can inherit property and assets. The specified relatives inherit in a strict legal order and a spouse may not inherit the whole estate dependant on circumstances, regardless of your intentions.

Normally it is small and less valuable personal items that cause problems. Personal items are sometimes called chattels if they’re not inherited by the intended people, they can leave relationships strained and sometimes irreparably damaged. 

Something like a picture drawn by the deceased or any other sentimental object can have great emotional value even if it holds no monetary value at all. It is impossible to quantify the value of these kinds of items but if they are not dealt with correctly, they have the potential to cause arguments and family rifts.

Avoiding problems

Making a Will is the best way to avoid potential conflict, as intestacy can be more difficult for anyone left to handle the estate. Making a Will also gives you peace of mind that your property, assets and chattels are left to the people you want to benefit.

It is the duty of the executors to put into effect the terms of the deceased’s Will, but if there is no mention of a particular item in the Will, the executors should consult with the beneficiaries to help avoid conflict. Executors’ legal duties are far-reaching and once an executor has begun to act they are responsible for life until the estate has properly been administered.

It also helps to have the conversation with your beneficiaries now to see if there are items they value or would like to receive after your death.

Having a professional deal with the probate and the administration of an estate can ensure that conflicts between family members are avoided or at least kept to a minimum. Professionals can administer estates quickly and independently relieving the administrative and legal burden and allowing the family time to grieve and support each other emotionally.

If you would like help with, or advice regarding, Wills, inheritance or probate, you can contact our helpful team.


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