Do you really need to bother making a will?
The simple answer to the above question is yes. In this article we will explain why.
But an estimated 60% of adults in the UK – 30 million people – do not have a will. Some of the reasons given for this are:
- They don’t think they have anything worth inheriting;
- They’ve never considered writing a will;
- They do intend to write a will but are just too busy.
If this rings a bell with you then read on! Because in this article we explain:
- Why it is important to make a will.
- What would happen if you do not make a will.
- How to write a will.
- Who should keep a copy of your will.
Why it is important to make a will
A will is an important legal document. It enables you to confirm what you would like to happen to your estate after you die.
Estate may sound like a very grand term, but it includes:
- Property, including your home;
- Money in any bank or building society accounts;
- Money from any life insurance policies;
- Any money owed to you;
- Shares or investments;
- All personal possessions.
Anything you owe to others, for example mortgage, rent, secured or short term loans and credit card balances will need to come out of the estate.
Making a will is also a helpful and considerate step to take for your family, as it ensures that everything is made clear for them. So it enables your estate to be sorted out quickly and without complications.
In particular, a will is important if you want to provide for an unmarried partner, stepchildren, friends or a charity as none of these are covered by general law. Let’s take a look.
What would happen if you do not make a will
If you die without making a will, this is called being intestate. Your estate is then subject to the legal Rules of Intestacy. What then happens to your estate depends on your domestic situation:
Your spouse/civil partner and children
- If you have a spouse/civil partner and no children, the entire estate will pass to them.
- If you have a spouse/civil partner and children, the spouse/civil partner will receive the first £250,000 of your estate, and anything else will be shared equally between the spouse/civil partner and the children.
- If you have no spouse/civil partner, but do have children, your entire estate will be shared equally between the children.
You will see from the above that if you die intestate, nothing is provided for a partner who is not a spouse/civil partner. Also nothing is provided for stepchildren.
Because there is no will, and no executor (the person who administers your estate), one of your next of kin may also need to apply for probate. This will enable them to obtain a document known as Grant of Letters of Administration and take charge of distributing the rest of your estate amongst various claimants.
The problem with this is that it can lead to disputes, about both who should apply for probate and how the estate is divided. Many families have had major fallings out in these situations, which is the last thing that you would have wanted.
So making a will can give you the peace of mind that not only will your family be provided for after your death, but also that there should be no disputes between them at what will already be a very difficult time.
How to write a will
There are two main ways to make a will. Either do it yourself, or use a solicitor.
Let’s take a look at each option:
Write your will yourself
It is perfectly valid to write your own will without involving a solicitor, particularly if your wishes are uncomplicated.
But you do need to satisfy some legal requirements in order for your will to be valid. These are:
- You must be aged at least 18 years old;
- You must be of sound mind and not being pressured by anyone else to make the will;
- The will must be in writing and signed by you in the presence of two witnesses;
- The will must be signed by the two witnesses in your presence after you have signed it.
Use a solicitor to write your will
For peace of mind, it may be better to either use a solicitor to write your will or at least to have a solicitor check a will if you have written it yourself. If there are any errors in it, or anything is unclear, it could cause legal problems after your death which may end up in your estate not being distributed as you’d wanted.
You will need to pay for a solicitor, and charges will vary between solicitors and also depending how complicated your will is. But it may be a worthwhile investment to make sure that you get things right.
If you don’t have the money for a solicitor but want to get your will in place, you could consider a short term loan to cover the cost. Also be aware that there is a scheme called Will Aid. Each November, participating solicitors will write a basic will for you free of charge in return for a suggested donation to Will Aid.
What to include in your will
However you choose to write your will, you need to be certain that it includes everything that needs to be in it. For example:
- A list of everything you have and where it is. For example your home, any other property, possessions, savings, pensions, shares investments, insurance policies, bank and building society accounts;
- A list of all your desired beneficiaries of your will ie the people to whom you want to leave something;
- Who you want to look after any children under 18 and/or pets, as applicable;
- Who you want to be the executor(s) of the will.
Who should keep a copy of your will
Once you have made a will, it is important to keep it in a safe place. For example:
- At home
- With a solicitor or accountant
- At a bank
- At HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS)
You should let the executor of your will know where it is kept so that there is no confusion or delay when the time comes from them to find it.
Also if you update your will at any stage, you need to make sure that any earlier copies of the will are replaced with the updated versions.
We hope that this article will help you to start the process of getting your will written and in place. It’s a topic that is not easy to think about but, as we have seen, makes everything easier for your loved ones if anything does unfortunately happen to you.
Check back here soon for more lifestyle and financial tips from Advantage Loans.