Making a will has many advantages. If you do not make a will, the law dictates who will inherit your assets. Uncertainty can also be created if you are the parent of minor children. Making a will enables you to appoint a guardian of your choice to look after your children until they reach the age of 18.
To will or not to will?
Nobody likes to think about death, particularly their own. However, making preparations for your death has many advantages. The primary benefit is that you get to decide (within certain parameters set out by Jersey law) who you wish to inherit your assets.
If you do not make a will, this does not happen, and the law dictates who will inherit from you in a situation called an intestacy. The current law does not permit unmarried couples to inherit from each other without having a will, therefore the death of a partner is likely to cause considerable hardship and uncertainty.
What if you have children?
Uncertainty can also be created if you are the parent of minor children. If you do not make a will, you will have no control over who will look after them should you die whilst they are still young. The court will appoint someone who you may not have chosen. If you make a will, you can appoint a guardian of your choice to look after your children until they reach the age of majority, which is currently 18.
Benefit of having a will
Dealing with bereavement can be very upsetting. The last thing your loved ones will want to deal with is the administration of your intestacy. This may also be very complicated and therefore they may need to employ professionals to help them and thereby reduce the value of your estate. However, with a will, your family will have your directions to follow as to how to deal with your affairs.
Avoiding intestacy in Jersey
In order to avoid an intestacy in Jersey it may be necessary to make two wills, one for dealing with immovable property and one for dealing with movable property. A will of Jersey immovable property deals with land and everything built on it, leases for over 9 years, flying freehold property and the benefit of certain mortgages. A will of movable property deals with all other assets such as jewellery, furniture, bank accounts, shares (including those that relate to share transfer properties) and investments.
Signing and witnessing wills
As it is essential that wills are in correct form and properly dated and witnessed you should always consult a lawyer to advise on and prepare your wills in Jersey. There are no pre-printed will forms suitable for use in Jersey and often it is mistakenly believed that online forms are suitable. They are printed for use in England where different laws apply.
Changing and updating a will
Once you have made a will you may change it as often as you wish. You can even cancel the entire document if you so decide. We do however advise that wills should be reviewed every five years to ensure they continue to meet your wishes, or sooner if your own circumstances change significantly (e.g. you become married, divorced, have a baby or become a grandparent).
Additional things to consider
Wills are not effective until they have been registered in the Public Registry in the case of immovable wills or a Grant of Probate has been obtained in the case of a will of movable estate. When taking these steps a revenue stamp is payable to the States of Jersey and the sums involved can be significant.
It is therefore important that consideration is given to the impact your wishes as expressed in your wills, may have on the amount of stamp duty payable on your death. The reality is that with some fairly straightforward estate planning, the saving on stamp duty can be considerable, leaving your loved ones financially better off. Viberts can assist with the necessary arrangements for this expenditure and can advise as to whether any special exemptions may be applied.
If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to making a will, please get in touch. Together we can look at your personal circumstances and advise on the best solution for you.