Making a Will is something everyone should do, but even as we get older many of us shy away from doing so. Here we look at the reasons why you should make a will and how to go about it.
Why do we shy away from making a will?
Is it because we think by making one, we’re going to die a bit sooner? Do we think ‘I don’t need one as it’ll go to my other half” or “I don’t have much to leave”? It may be also that some think it’s just too much effort and they don’t know how to do it.
Why you should make a Will
The only way your own wishes concerning your finances, property and loved ones’ welfare can be safeguarded after you die, is to have a valid, up to date Will in place. A Will saves everyone a lot of worry and at such a difficult time, it can make life a lot easier for those who are left behind.
These are some of the reasons why you should make or review a Will:
- The practicalities of administrating an estate and getting a grant of Probate with a Will are far quicker and cheaper.
- Changes in circumstances such as buying a house, the birth of grandchildren, marriage, divorce, Civil Partnerships, addition of step-children, a sudden increase in wealth, etc.
- If you’re living with someone (co-habiting), they can only inherit if they’re named in your Will.
- You can make more precise and better financial provision if you have a disabled or vulnerable person in your care.
- You can choose who you want to carry out your wishes by appointing Executors.
- If you have married again but have children from a prior relationship, you can only preserve their inheritance by naming them as beneficiaries in your Will.
- Long-time care costs may be reduced for the partner you leave behind if you include a ‘life interest trust’ in your Will.
- A carefully drafted Will can, in certain circumstances, help reduce the amount of inheritance tax that may need to be paid.
- You can leave specific gifts, financial bequests and charitable donations.
- If you do still have children under 18, you can appoint someone of your choice to be their guardian if you die.
If you don’t make a Will
If you don’t make a Will, any wishes you may have had, won’t be carried out and you’ll leave a big administrative burden for those left behind.
You will be classed as ‘dying intestate’ and there is a strict pecking order about who inherits: your husband or wife will inherit the first £270,000 and the rest will be split 50/50 between your children and back to your spouse. If you are not married and/or do not have any children, then it will be shared among parents, followed by siblings, followed by Aunts/Uncles and then cousins.
This has huge repercussions if you’ve been living together but never married – it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been together, your partner will receive nothing at all. It also has consequences if you married for a second time and you have children from a previous relationship. If you suddenly died without a Will, your second spouse would inherit everything (or the first £270,000) and your children might receive nothing.
What can a Will contain?
A Will is all about your wishes, no-one else’s. Once you’ve chosen your Executors and Trustees, you can focus on what you want to leave and to who, etc.
Your estate (everything that belongs to you at the time of your death) – it’s possible to split your estate among a number of people (beneficiaries), in different shares and at specific ages. Some people worry about their grandchildren being too young to inherit, but you can specify an older age if you’re worried and appoint a Trustee to look after that money until they reach, say, 21.
Your house – usually this isn’t included separately in your Will, but it can be, and should be, if you are looking ahead to care home fees. By seeking professional advice, you can change how you own your home and leave your own half of your home to your children but in trust so that your partner can still carry on living in the house after you have died.
Specific gifts – there may be a family heirloom that you want to hand down to a particular member of your family. You might want to leave sums of money to grandchildren. There may be a charity that means a lot to you and so in your Will, you can leave a bequest.
To be cremated/buried – not essential, but some people do include it, particularly if they sense there might be family dis-agreement about the funeral.
Guardianship – for those still with children under 18, you can choose who would look after them if both parents died.
Different types of trusts – some people have more complex circumstances where they are still caring for their vulnerable adult children and so they need to ensure they will be provided for in the right way. This could involve including a trust in a Will.
How does a Will become valid?
Among other things, it has to be signed and dated by the Testator in the presence of 2 independent Witnesses (who are not Beneficiaries) and who also sign and date.
How to make a Will
Professional advice is always advisable but some people decide to go DIY and buy a Will kit. If you do, you run a real risk of making mistakes and there’s no-one to ask advice from. Professional Will Writers such as those qualified with the Institute of Professional Willwriters are an excellent choice as they will see you in your own home at a time to suit you. Solicitors are also an excellent choice for appointments during the working day where and if you’re able to go to their offices.
Although it’s easy to keep putting your head in the sand, planning for the future is essential and making a Will is very much part of that.
Author: Sally Helm, Valley Willwriting
To find out more about how to make a will contact Sally at firstname.lastname@example.org