Let’s face it, making a will is something we don’t really like to think about. If you’re feeling well and enjoying life, it seems like you’ve got years ahead of you before you need to start thinking about getting your affairs in order. You probably also reckon that you don’t really have anything worth inheriting anyway!
Which is why an estimated 60% of adults in the UK – 30 million people – do not have a will. But in this article we explain:
Why it is never too early to make a will.
What would happen if you died without a will.
How to write a will and what to include in it.
Where you should keep a copy of your will.
Sadly, anything can happen to any of us at any time. If you have a will, it will legally confirm to your family what you want them to do with your estate after you die. This can be a great help to them at what would already be a stressful time, and enables your estate to be sorted out quickly and without any additional complications.
The definition of estate includes:
Your property, including your main home;
Money in any of your bank or building society accounts;
Money from any of your life insurance policies;
Any money that is owed to you by others;
Any shares or investments you have;
All your other personal possessions.
If you have any outstanding debts – including mortgage, rent, secured or unsecured loans and credit card balances – these will be repaid from the value of your estate.
There are two things that would happen if you die “intestate” – i.e. without making a will.
If you die intestate your estate would then be subject to the legal Rules of Intestacy. These rules will allocate your estate to your surviving relatives in the following order of priority:
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.
It is important to note that if you die intestate, nothing is provided for:
a partner who is not a spouse/civil partner;
If there are other people apart from your spouse/civil partner and your children who may possibly have some kind of claim on your estate, one of your next of kin may need to apply for probate. This will enable them to obtain a document known as Grant of Letters of Administration and then be authorised to distribute the rest of your estate amongst various claimants.
Probate can be a minefield for all parties concerned. It can lead to disputes about who should apply for probate and how the estate is then divided, and what you would have wanted.
So overall, making a will makes things much easier for all concerned, and can help to prevent the misunderstandings and fallings out that sadly could otherwise happen.
You can either write a will yourself, or have a solicitor do it for you. There are pros and cons of both.
You are legally entitled to write your will yourself, as long as you satisfy the following legal requirements:.
You must be aged at least 18 years old;
You must be of sound mind;
You must want to write the will and not be pressured by anyone else to do so;
The will must be in writing and signed by you in the presence of two witnesses;
The will must then be signed by the two witnesses in your presence after you have signed it.
Many people prefer a solicitor to write their will so that they are confident there is nothing incorrect or ambiguous in it, and that there will be no unexpected legal problems after their death.
A solicitor will charge for their services, and these charges will vary between solicitors and also depending how complicated the will is.
If you don’t have the money for a solicitor but want to get your will in place, you could consider one of Minty’s online loans to cover the cost. Then you would have the peace of mind that everything is in place should the worst happen.
If you are prepared to wait until November to get your will sorted, another option is to look at 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. You can sign up to Will Aid now to receive information when the scheme goes live in September.
You need to give your will a lot of thought and make sure that it includes everything that needs to be in it. If you use a solicitor, they will guide you on this, but a few examples are:
A list of everything in your estate and where it is. For example your home and any other property, possessions, savings, pensions, shares, investments, insurance policies, bank and building society accounts;
A list of any money that you owe, and details of how to access the relevant accounts;
A list of all the beneficiaries of your will ie all the people that you want to leave something to;
Who you want to look after any children under 18 and/or pets, if applicable;
Who you want to be the executor(s) of the will.
Once you have made a will, it is important to keep it in a safe place. For example:
With a solicitor or accountant
At a bank
You should let the executor(s) 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.
You can update your will at any stage, but if you do this you need to make sure that any earlier copies of the will are replaced with the new up to date 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 comfortable to think about but, as we have seen, would make everything much easier and less stressful for your loved ones if anything does unfortunately happen to you.