The importance of writing a will

Writing a will allows you to have control over what happens to your property, money and belongings after you pass away. According to research 59% of UK adults haven’t made a will, and that goes up to 65% among 45-54-year-olds. But what should you put in a will and how does the process work?

A will is a legally binding document that has to be written in accordance with certain rules, so you can’t simply write something on a notepad without knowing what to include in the will.

Read our guide on how to leave a house and other assets to someone in a will.

Why should you write a will?

There are plenty of things to consider when making a will. Here are ten reasons why writing a will is a good idea.

  1. Control your estate. The main concern for most people when writing a will is to make sure their money and possessions are distributed in the way they prefer.
     

  2. Reduce stress for your next of kin. After the death of a loved one, the amount of bureaucracy and arrangements to be made can be overwhelming. Writing a will helps alleviate that problem.

  3. Avoid arguments. Your family and other beneficiaries will have your wishes clearly laid out, leaving less room for disputes over who should get what.
     

  4. Make provision for your children. If you have children under 18, you can specify who you would like to become their guardian, rather than entrusting the decision to the courtroom.
     

  5. Make your funeral requests clear. A will is also where you can set out the kind of funeral you’d like, from whether you’d prefer to be buried or cremated, as well as your choice of music.
     

  6. Avoid intestacy rules. If you die without making a will, your estate will be divided according to set rules rather than your intentions.
     

  7. Reduce your Inheritance Tax. Anything in your estate above £350,000 is liable for Inheritance Tax, so making arrangements in your will can ensure you don’t pay any more tax than you owe.
     

  8. Give to organisations. It’s not just people who can benefit from your will, but organisations and causes close to your heart can do too.
     

  9. Protect your digital assets. Increasingly, our treasured possessions are accessed digitally, from photographs to password-protected documents.
     

  10. Care for your pets. Your will can include provisions for any pets you have, such as who should look after them.

 

What happens if you die without writing a will?

In formal terms, if you die without writing a will you’ve died intestate, and what you leave becomes subject to intestacy laws. If there are no surviving relatives who can inherit under the rules of intestacy, the estate passes to the Crown. This is known as bona vacantia. The Treasury Solicitor is then responsible for dealing with the estate.

The intestacy laws are designed to help decide who’s entitled to your estate under the rules of inheritance. A significant disadvantage is that your estate may not pass to the people you want to benefit. For example, if you were married or had a civil partner, there’s no guarantee your children or grandchildren would receive anything unless you leave an estate worth over £250,000.

You can find out more about the rules of intestacy at GOV.UK

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The importance of a will for unmarried couples

If you’re not married or in a civil partnership and your partner dies, you will not be automatically able to inherit anything. The same applies if your relationship to the deceased was that of a friend, carer or relative by marriage.

If you’re unmarried and you have children, they will inherit the estate under the rules of intestacy. This underlines why it’s important that unmarried couples write a will to protect their financial future.

When is the best time to write a will?

Ideally, you should write your will at the earliest opportunity. In practice, though, people tend to write theirs when they hit key milestones in life, like buying their first home, getting married or entering a civil partnership or having children. These are the moments in life where you start to accumulate an estate and have dependents for the first time, which may focus the mind on what will happen to them when you’re no longer around.

Alternatively, you might be prompted by the death of a close relative, or divorced; these events act as a reminder that life can be unpredictable, and that it’s a good idea to make provisions for the future.

Ultimately, it’s hard to know when or even how to leave assets like a house to someone in a will, but it’s wise to be proactive, as making a will ensures your estate goes to the people you want.

How to make a will

Making a will isn’t something that happens overnight, but here is a summary of five steps you should follow when deciding how to distribute your estate.

  • Get your estate valued – You should calculate your total assets, such as your property, savings and investments, as well as your debts, including any outstanding mortgages, credit card loans and your bank overdraft.
     

  • Divide your estate – Once you’ve valued your estate, it’s time to think about who should benefit from it. It’s also an opportunity to figure out contingencies, such as what happens if one of your named beneficiaries dies before you.
     

  • Choose your executors – Naming an executor of a will is an important step in ensuring your estate will be dealt with according to your wishes.

  • Write your will – At this stage, you’re ready to finalise the will in writing. There are various ways you can get a will written, as we’ll cover later in this guide.
     

  • Sign and store your will – Finally, a valid will must be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses. You will then need to store the will, either at home or safely with the Probate Service, solicitors or bank.

How to choose an executor

The executor is the person who will carry out your wishes, as laid out in your will, after your death. Being an executor can mean taking on a lot of responsibility for making sure the estate is distributed correctly, paying off any debts, and mediating in any disputes, so you’ll want to choose someone who is happy and capable of rising to the challenge. Most people ask family or friends, but if you have a complex estate, it can be a good idea to consider a professional executor, such as a solicitor.

You can also decide to have more than one executor. Many people appoint two, allowing them to share the burden of responsibility. Find out more about the responsibilities of the executor of will.

Will Process

  • Make an appointment to see one of our advisers

  • Make a list of who you would like to benefit from your estate
    and the amounts that you would like to leave

  • Make a note of anyone who you would not like to leave money
    too such as a partner you are separated from

  • Come and see one of our advisers

After Signing Services

After your Will has been drafted and signed we can:

  • Store your will securely

  • Scan it and store an electronic copy

  • For a small fee register it with Certainty National Will Register for extra peace of mind

  • Amend your Will as and when you require through the use of codicils

At your appointment one of our experts will talk you through your Will and advise on the best course of action to you as well as advise on potential inheritance tax and nursing home fee issues. Your Will is then prepared and sent to you with a full commentary of what the effect of each provision is. Only when you are completely satisfied will your Will then be executed and form a legal document.