Brief history of the origin of Wills
The idea of a Will seems straightforward. It gives you the legal right to pass on your property and possessions to anyone you like. Perhaps surprisingly, though, people haven’t always enjoyed this freedom.
The invention of Wills is often credited to a statesman called Solon, who lived in Ancient Greece around 600 years before the birth of Christ. Solon’s law let people choose who to leave their estates to, instead of everything going automatically to family members.
There were a few restrictions, though. You had to be a citizen of Athens. It didn’t apply to women, slaves, foreigners, or anyone who was adopted. And if you had sons – too bad. They’d automatically inherit your estate anyway.
If instead, you had daughters, you had the choice of bequeathing your assets to men other than family members. The catch was that these men were then obliged to marry your daughters, thus ensuring that wealth always stayed in the family.
The concept of a Will was further developed by the Romans, who were also keen to keep things in the family. If you omitted a child from your Will without giving a good reason, it could be considered a dereliction of duty and your Will simply ignored.
One way around this was to leave a pittance to your offspring, as this was proof that you truly were thinking straight at the time you made your Will.
Early Roman Wills were spoken aloud in the presence of seven witnesses. However, this oral method relied on witnesses accurately remembering what they’d heard years later, and so was eventually replaced by written Wills.
Statute of Wills
In England, a major development of Wills concerned property rights. In 1540, during the reign of King Henry VIII, an Act of Parliament called the Statute of Wills enabled individuals to decide who would inherit their land.
Previously, land could only be passed to surviving relatives. If there were none, it would automatically go to the crown. Landowners were understandably unhappy with this state of affairs, and the Statute of Wills was seen as a compromise with the king.
The Statute of Wills was superseded by the Wills Act of 1837. This unified previous legislation governing land and property with rules concerned with personal possessions.
Rules of Intestacy
Many of the rules introduced in the 1837 Act remain valid today. However, a later Act of Parliament was introduced to govern what happens to people who die without a Will, i.e intestate. The Administration of Estates Act was introduced in 1925 – less than a quarter of a century after the end of the Victorian era. It’s fair to say that public morals then were very different to what they are today.
It’s probably not too surprising that the Rules of Intestacy outlined in the Act aren’t favourable towards unmarried people who live together. Even now, if you die without a Will your estate will go to your blood relatives.
The Rules of Intestacy do recognise civil partnerships as well as marriages. But if the person you share your life with is neither spouse nor civil partner, they’ll receive nothing.
The easy solution, of course, is to write them into your Will! At Maplebrook Services, we specialise in affordable Wills and we’ll even visit your home to take care of the paperwork.
When all’s said and done, we’re in an enviable position compared to our ancestors. Unlike them, we can leave our hard-earned possessions to those we truly love.
How Maplebrook Services can help you
At Maplebrook Services we talk you through writing a
Will in plain, straightforward terms.
We write Wills everyday so are true experts in this
important service. We can guide you towards choosing
the most appropriate Will for your circumstances.
Maplebrook Services will give you a far superior
solution to adopting a DIY approach and all the risks of
getting it wrong which that route poses. Yet we are
considerably more cost-effective than using a solicitor.
Maplebrook Services complies with the strict industry
rules and checks required. Alongside professional
indemnity insurance, this ensures you receive the
trustworthy, professional and confidential service you
require when writing your Will.
For your convenience we are happy to visit your workplace
or home to discuss your needs and collect the necessary
information to write an accurate Will for you
A few vital facts about Wills
- If you die without a Will, known as intestacy, the
Government decides who benefits from your Estate.
- Mistakes made during the writing of a Will can make
it invalid resulting in the Intestacy rules applying.
- Marriage cancels out any previous Wills.
- A Will is the only legal document where you may be
able to appoint your choice of guardian for your
children should you die.
- If you appoint a solicitor or a bank to act as your
executor, they can charge up to 5% + VAT calculated
upon the value of your estate, i.e. on a £300,000
estate they could charge £18,000 including VAT!
What is a Will and why should you have one?
A Will is a legal document in which you express your
wishes as to how your money, property and assets
are administered and distributed after your death.
If relevant, you can also specify how minor children
should be cared for.
A well written Will can provide clarity after your death:
- How your money is allocated. Your assets go
where you wish, side-stepping problems that might
- Who are the executors? You can specify who should
administer your estate.
- Clear up uncertainty over your partner’s future.
Whether married or not, a Will ensures your partner
receives what you want to leave them.
- Your children’s guardian. You can name the people
you’d like to care for your minor children in the event
of there being no surviving parents.
- Securing your family home. A Will is part of the
legal documentation you’ll need to protect the family
home from being sold to fund long term care for a
Wills should always be prepared expertly, but they do
not need to be disproportionately expensive or time consuming.
Maplebrook Services can help you to choose the most appropriate Will for you.
What dangers can occur when you do not have a Will?
Your estate – the term given to describe your assets after
death – faces numerous threats if you don’t have a Will.
- Surprising intestacy rules. If you die without a Will,
intestacy rules apply. These are unlikely to distribute
your estate as you’d wish.
- Care costs needlessly eroding family assets. If your
surviving spouse requires long-term care, your family
home could be assessed to cover this cost. A Will is
part of the solution to protecting against this.
- The bite of inheritance tax. Your estate and the lives
of your beneficiaries may be significantly impacted
by inheritance tax. Without a Will this risk goes
unchecked, endangering what you’ve worked for
during your life.
- Who’ll care for your young children? No surviving
parent plus no Will means your children become the
responsibility of the court and not necessarily who
you’d wish to be their guardian.
- Future marriage and divorce settlements. After you’re
gone, your loved ones’ lives will eventually move on.
Future marriages and divorces could adversely affect
where your money ends up – but a Will can give you
- Bankruptcy and creditors. The assets or money
you pass on can be at risk of creditor claims if your
beneficiaries are subject to bankruptcy. You can
manage this risk with a Will.
The correct Will can be a complete or partial solution
to these risks. Maplebrook Services can ensure your
loved ones are adequately protected.
A Will is essential if you have minor children
If no guardian has been declared in a Will, and there is
no surviving parent, the appointment of a guardian for
your children becomes the responsibility of the courts.
Until they appoint a guardian your children may go into
foster care. You can imagine the additional distress this
will place on your already vulnerable children.
If you have children under the age of 18, avoiding this
is likely to be your number one reason for wanting to
write a Will. A simple clause is all it takes. With this you
will spare your children further upset and uncertainty
when trying to deal with the complete loss of parents.