It’s very important to make a will. Estate planning is not just for the wealthy.
If you don’t, and you’re domiciled in Jersey which, broadly speaking, means permanently resident in the Island, the law will dictate who will inherit your assets and it may not be who you expect. For example, if you’re unmarried and you die without a will, your partner is not legally entitled to inherit anything from you.
If you live in Jersey, we generally advise that two wills are required: one to deal with your movable assets and another for your immovable.
If you live offshore, and you only own movable assets in the Island, for example, a bank account, you will only need one will. This will allow probate to be granted much quicker to your heirs in the event of your death.
Forced heirship rights
Unlike many other jurisdictions, if you are domiciled in Jersey and you make a will, certain forced heirship rights (known as ‘légitime’) are given to your spouse* and your children over your movable assets. These rights cannot be removed even if you make a will that ignores them.
Upon your death, your spouse is entitled to receive one third of your movable property and the household effects and your children another third between them. The remaining third is what’s known as your ‘disposable third’ and you may leave this to whoever you like.
So, let’s take an example. If you left a spouse and two children and £90,000 in your estate, your spouse would receive one third in the sum of £30,000 pounds, plus the household effects and your children would receive the same sum, but divided between them, so they would each receive £15,000 pounds. You would then have the remaining third of £30,000 to leave to whoever you wished.
If you leave only children or a surviving spouse, they are entitled to receive the 2/3rds of your movable estate (so in our example they would receive £60,000) and in the case of a surviving spouse, the household effects as well.
If you don’t leave any children or a surviving spouse you may leave your movable property to whoever you like.
Equally, no forced heirship applies to the distribution of immovable property and this can also be left to whoever you wish.
The right of dower
If you are married, your spouse will acquire a life interest over one third of your property. This is known as the right of dower.
Technically speaking your spouse will have the right to live in one third of your immovable property. Children however get no such rights.
Because people often buy houses in joint names we rarely come across scenarios where this happens, but where it does, there are options available.
Therefore, subject to this right of dower, heirs have no right to challenge any gifts of immovable property made by you in your will.
Why is it so important to make a will?
Your will gives away the property that you have acquired in your lifetime and is a very important document. We help our clients plan for the unexpected in life. We understand that you want peace of mind in knowing that your minor children will be raised by those you chose.
We will advise you as to how you can provide financial security for your family. Estate planning is about protecting the people we love.
Please call me to talk about making your plans.
* References to ‘spouse’ include references to civil partners.