According to various studies, between 40% and 60% of the UK population do not have a will. You may not want to think about what will happen after you die and the thought of putting it down in writing can be upsetting.
However, writing a will allows you to set out what you want to happen after you die. It ensures that your wishes are set out clearly and you can choose who you want to deal with things on your behalf. By not planning for the future, you could be leaving your family with extra work and hassle at what is already an emotionally charged time.
Even if you don't you don't think you have much money, belongings or property it is still important to think about writing a will.
Find out more about wills:
- Different types of will
- Do I have to leave money to certain people?
- What happens if I don't have a will?
- How to write a will
- Second marriages and care fees
In your will, you appoint people to deal with your estate (your money, belongings and property ) who are known as Executors. Your estate may be simple to sort out, but in some cases it can be quite complicated. You are can choose the people you trust to make decisions, to act honestly and to distribute your money, belongings and property according to your wishes. If you do not have a will, the law decides who will be responsible for doing this, which would usually falls to your closest relatives.
You keep control
If you do not prepare a will, the Rules of Intestacy decide who benefits from your estate. See what happens if I don't have a will?
It may be the case that this works out exactly as you would want it to if you did prepare a will. However, it is more than likely that certain people would get more than you would have wanted, and other loved ones receive nothing at all.
If you have children under the age of 18 your will allows you to appoint people to act as guardians. Guardians look after the welfare of your children until they reach adulthood.
Although children under 18 are not able to inherit money outright, as soon as they reach 18 they will be entitled to their inheritance. You may feel that this is a bit young to be receiving potentially a large sum of money, therefore in your will you can specify an older age for them to inherit when they might deal with it more sensibly, such as 21 or 25 when they to buy a car on leaving university or are looking to put a deposit on a house. You can also choose who looks after the money until then these people are called your Trustees.
By increasing the age your children inherit, you are not denying them access to their money, but it will be up to the Trustees to assess when it is suitable to release money to them and how much.
Gifts to people or charities
You might want to leave specific items such as family heirlooms that have passed down the generations, or jewellery, to certain people. The only way to ensure these gifts are made is by writing a will.
Many people also want to leave money to charity after their days, which would not be guaranteed to happen unless you provided for this in your will.
Many people think that if you are not married but living with your partner as husband and wife, they will be treated as such if you die. This is not the case. If you in relationship with your partner and living together, your partner has no legal right to any of your belongings if you die, even if you are engaged.
The only way to ensure your partner is allowed to continue to live in your property, or can afford to pay the bills and running costs of the house is by providing for them in a will.
If you do not have a Will and you are living together, your partner will not automatically inherit your share of the property, this will pass to your family under the rules of intestacy. Your partner may find themselves in a position where they are forced out of the house either due to family pressure or due to the fact they are unable to afford to continue to live there.
Inheritance tax planning
A will can be an effective way to reduce the amount of tax you have to pay if you have a sizeable estate. In this day and age, with house prices ever-increasing, more and more families are finding themselves in a position where their loved ones will have to pay inheritance tax after their days.
Your solicitor can advise you on the best way to structure your will and your estate to try and minimise the amount of tax to be paid, and we will also advise you on the full range of exemptions and reliefs that are available to you.
Thanks to Laura Ikin at NewLaw Solicitors for writing this page for us.
Next update due: June 2017