What do Amy Winehouse, Barry White, Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln all have in common? As well as dying at a relatively young age, they all died without leaving a valid will in place.

As a recent article in the Wirral Globe notes, for some of their families the lack of will has had consequences that are still playing out decades later.

Speaking to the local paper, Tom Rimmington, the head of Wills, Probate and Estate Planning at the firm Peter Edwards Law, said if you took the case of the music artist Barry White, you got a clear demonstration of the problems that arise when someone dies intestate.

Two ex-wives and an ex-girlfriend

Barry White left behind two ex-wives who both claimed a large share of his money and an ex-girlfriend who had just given birth to the singer’s ninth child. Mr White left a substantial estate but with no will in place, there was no clear plan for how he wanted the estate distributed.

Dealing with grief, Mr Rimmington added, was hard enough for bereaved families without having to sort through an estate where there was no will or one that hadn’t been updated to reflect changes in circumstances in place.

By making a will, people are able to control who administers the estate and who can look after any children who haven’t reached a majority and, of course, who inherits from the estate and how much.

Intestacy laws

Otherwise, the distribution of an estate relies on intestacy laws, which may not divide up the estate according to the testator’s wishes.

Referring to the murder of BBC Crimewatch presenter Jill Dando in 1999, Mr Rimmington said at the time of her death she had been unmarried and did not have a will. Without this vital legal document in place, her estate went to her parents but her grieving partner (also her fiancé) was left with nothing.

For children who are disabled or who cannot manage by themselves, it is important for a will to provide for them properly should anything happen to their parents or guardians, so that their care and financial situation is established from the outset.

Tax considerations

Such a will would also need to be efficient from a tax point of view to ensure that is did not conflict with any state benefits that child received.

A properly considered and drawn up will is vital to ensure everything is taken care of and your savings and assets are distributed fairly and as you wish after your death.

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