Making cents: A will gives you control of life after your death

It is advisable to make a will, particularly at certain stages of life, such as when marrying, divorcing, or becoming a parent.

But many of us are reluctant to do it, because we don’t want to think about it or because we joke that we have nothing to leave.

But wills are more than a simple division of assets; they are an instruction as to what we want to happen after our death.

If you die without a will — ‘intestate’ — then your estate will be divided according to the law and this may not tally with what you would have preferred.

For example, if you are in a long-term relationship and have children, your spouse/partner will get two-thirds, with the remaining third divided between your children. Inheritance laws cover when a single, childless person dies, with the estate going to other family in a set structure. 

Only family members will inherit in this circumstance.

A will can be drawn up without legal advice. There are kits for creating a will. These can be bought in some stationers, and there are websites dedicated to the purpose. 

Citizensinformation.ie list the requirements of a valid will: it must be in writing and witnessed by two people who will not themselves gain from it.

But you are almost certainly better off getting legal help. FLAC, which promotes access to the law, advises that, “due to the complex rules for making a will, you should seek the advice of a solicitor”.

Having a solicitor involved should reduce confusion or ambiguity and make it less likely that the will is challenged in court. 

A solicitor can also advise you on estate planning, to minimise the level of capital acquisitions tax (CAT) your beneficiaries will have to pay.

Don’t assume any inheritance between family members will be tax-exempt. There are thresholds dependent on the relationship involved. You can get exact details at revenue.ie. These thresholds also cover gifts given before death, so any help given in previous years, for example a parent helping a child with a house deposit, could have an impact when it comes to inheritance.

There are a number of reliefs and exemptions available to reduce the tax bill on an inheritance. 

Agricultural relief may be available for farm assets, subject to conditions, and business relief where a family company is involved. In some circumstances, a nephew or niece who has worked full-time on a farm or business for five years may be entitled to the same tax threshold as a son or daughter, in relation to that property.

The family home may also be treated differently to other property, particularly if there is a surviving spouse/partner and dependent children.

Surviving cohabitants also now have the right to apply to court for provision from the estate.

If you have children under 18, it is important that your will name a guardian: ie, the person you select to take over and rear your children until they reach adulthood. 

It is hard to dwell on the prospect of your children losing both parents, but couples should ensure that their wills clearly say who is to have guardianship, if both die. Unmarried couples should also make clear what is to happen if one of them dies.

Separation and divorce can also have an impact on succession rights and these may be dealt with under the terms of a separation agreement, or at time of divorce.

However, it does not automatically mean the former spouse/partner loses all claim to an estate and anyone with concerns should get legal advice.

Joint accounts can cause issues. People can have them with both family member and non-family, for a variety of reasons. 

Generally, the assumption is that if one party dies, the balance of the account will go to the remaining account holder. If this is not what you want, it is advisable to make it clear, both in your will and to the bank.

You can get further information at revenue.ie and citizensinformation.ie.

=======DEAL OF THE WEEK

Vodafone are holding a summer sale of their broadband, phone and TV packages for the home.

This is an introductory offer and customers must commit to an 18-month contract. The packages will revert to their original price for the final 12 months of the deal.

Available to new customers, all their packages are available for €25 for the first six months.

If you only need internet access, you can choose the Vodafone Simply Broadband offer, which will revert to €45 per month after the introductory period.

If you want to add calls, your package price will rise to €50 per month for unlimited anytime calls to all Irish landlines or €60 per month if you also want unlimited anytime calls to all Irish mobiles.

If you are interested in adding 54 Channels of Vodafone TV, you can get the whole lot for €70 per month after the initial six months. For an extra €10

you can add in the eir

& BT Sport

Pack or wireless multiroom. Find out more at vodafone

.ie.

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