Research from Unbiased.co.uk has found that a staggering 30 million people in the UK do not have a will.
Most of us know we should have a will but not all of us know the consequences of not having a will. Apart from making it easier for our dependents and family when we die a will can also be used to help reduce any Inheritance Tax payable on death.
Making a will though really is one of those things most of us put off to another day so as Will Aid is here once again we thought it would be a great time to look at some of the questions we most often get asked about wills.
“First things first, why should I make a will?”
There are a number of very good reasons to make a will.
Firstly, it allows your assets to be distributed as per your wishes. If you don’t make a will the people you might want to benefit from your estate may not receive what you intended them to.
Secondly, if you have children under the age of 18 and you have not made a will the courts will decide who will be their guardians, this may not be in line with your wishes. Making a will can ensure this does not happen and for many people is the single biggest reason why they should make a will, even if they have no actual assets to distribute.
Thirdly, a will can be a valuable tool to help reduce any Inheritance Tax payable on your death, leaving more of your estate for your beneficiaries to enjoy.
Finally, a will means you can leave specific gifts, for example you might want to leave your engagement ring to your daughter, or a family heirloom to someone specific. This is harder to do if you have not made a will, especially if you were to die suddenly.
“What happens if I don’t have a will?”
Many people don’t realise that if they die intestate, which is the legal term for dying without a will, the law will decide how their assets are distributed.
For example, if you die without a will and are unmarried, but with a partner, it is not your partner who will inherit your assets, even if this is what you wanted, but your father.
If you live in England & Wales and are married you might assume that on your death all your assets would automatically pass to your spouse, this isn’t the case.
Whilst jointly owned assets would transfer to your spouse, they would only get the first £250,000 of the assets you own in your sole name, plus a right to income, but not capital, from the remaining half. The remainder would go to your children, conversely if your estate is less than £250,000 your children would get nothing.
If you are single with no children your estate will be distributed amongst various family members, ultimately it is possible for your assets to be passed to the government.
The rules are complex, but the message is clear, if you don’t have a will, it is the law and not you who will decide where your assets end up.
“Any other consequences of not making a will?”
If you have not made a will the courts will decide who looks after any children under the age of 18 and not you, as we have already said, this is possibly the most important reason to make a will.
You will also lose out on the opportunity to possibly reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax payable by your estate.
Finally, if you have business not having a will could mean you lose the opportunity to plan what happens to the business on your death. Succession planning for everyone who owns a business is vitally important, not just for the beneficiaries of your estate but also business partners and indeed the employees of the business.
“Ok, I’m convinced, how do I make a will?”
There are three ways you can make a will, firstly do it yourself using a ‘will kit’, secondly use a will writer, and thirdly use a solicitor.
Writing your own will using a ‘will kit’ might sound tempting as it is probably the cheapest option, but a badly worded will can lead to arguments after your death and could even be contested.
Will Writers are often perceived to be cheaper than solicitors, although this is not always the case, and they are not regulated by the Law Society.
Because of the issues created by badly drafted wills and the fact they are regulated we would always recommend that you use a solicitor to write your will. They don’t have to be expensive and you can take advantage of initiatives such as Will Week.
“I already have a will, should I review it?”
This really depends on whether your circumstances have changed since you made your will.
If you have married, got divorce, had children or increased the size of your estate since you last made a will then it certainly should be reviewed.
You should also review your will if you have changed your mind about how you would like your estate to be distributed or who you would like to look after your dependent children.
Get in touch
Making a will really is one of those jobs we put off to another day, however for those with assets or dependent children it really shouldn’t be.
Whether you need to make a new will or review your existing will we would urge you to take advantage of Will Aid, and help yourself, your dependents and charity by taking part.
Feel free to get in touch; we work with a number of solicitors who we would be happy to recommend to you.
We can be contacted on 0115 933 8433 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The Financial Services Authority does not regulate will writing.