Two out of three of us don’t bother to make wills. So why don’t we? After all, not making a will may mean partners or loved ones could face financial hardship at a time when they will be struggling to come to terms with their grief. We avoid it because it means coming face to face with our own mortality, something we don’t like to think about at the best of times.
Making a will is important because it
• Controls how your assets are distributed
• Can save inheritance tax
• Avoids family disputes
• Provides peace of mind
Many people don’t realize the problems they cause by failing to make a will. They may assume they have too little to leave or that their family will automatically inherit everything anyway. But that is simply not the case.
If you die intestate (without having left a will) then your estate will be divided according to intestacy laws. This means your worldly goods may not end up where you think they will, or even where you would like them to. For example, if you’re married with children, under the intestacy laws, your spouse gets everything up to £250,000, plus your personal possessions. The problem is that if your property is worth more than £250,000, your spouse could lose their home because surviving children or grand children are entitled to some of the estate if it exceeds £250,000. So the property wouldn’t belong entirely to your partner.
Unmarried couples living together fare even worse. If they don’t make wills, their partner will inherit absolutely nothing under intestacy rules. By law, only married couples and those in civil partnerships are recognized as having any rights over property. Also the intestacy laws are not likely to be tax efficient.
Taking that decision to write your will is one of the most important steps you can take to protect your family. But it’s vital to get it right, which is why it’s advisable to use a solicitor. Even if you only have a few possessions or a small amount to leave, the solicitor will know the best way to word your will. The language in a will needs to be very precise if it is to have legal standing.
A solicitor will also be able to advise you on other aspects of your will, such as making provision for loved ones with special needs or who are in financial difficultly or going through marital problems. You do not want to give your estate to someone who may lose it to a third party such as a spouse in a divorce action or a creditor in bankruptcy proceedings. Again by seeking professional advice you can draft your will to avoid inheritance tax or plan for nursing care fees.
Before you set off to see a solicitor, it’s a good idea to have some thoughts as to what you would like to happen to all your worldly goods when you die. Consider the following questions:
Once you have decided exactly what you would like to happen to your estate, it's time to visit your solicitor. Remember he or she is there to help you and make suggestions. For example, you may say you want everything to go to your partner when you die. However, the solicitor will want to know what you would like to happen if your partner died before you or if you both died in a car accident together. Although the chances of this happening are very slim, the solicitor will want to ensure he understands your wishes.
Once your will is drawn up by your solicitor, you will be asked to check it and sign it in front of two independent witnesses. These should not be people who would benefit from your will. Once signed, the will needs to be kept in a safe place. Your solicitor will probably suggest storing the original document for you, for a small charge.
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