Writing A Will – Why You Can’t Put It Off
Many people think “why do I need to write a will?” However, if you don’t have a valid will in place, your assets may not go to the people you intended, so you really should think seriously about writing a will.
Some people who die without writing a will (called dying intestate) will have believed that their entire estate will automatically pass to their spouse or civil partner. But under English law, a spouse or civil partner of a person who dies intestate is only entitled to the first £250,000 of assets (or the first £450,000 if there are no children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, and half the amount above £450,000), plus 50% and a lifetime’s interest in half of the remainder, while the residue will go to other relatives *1. Family feuds over distribution of assets of people dying intestate are far from uncommon. So if you want to control where your assets go, and prevent problems for your surviving relatives, writing a will is imperative.
Between 57% and 75% of the UK population do not have a will. (Source: probateoffices.co.uk)
Wills are often drawn up by solicitors, although there are an increasing number of specialist will writing companies who can also offer unbiased advice on the process of writing a will. Once you have had your will signed and witnessed, you will need to keep it safe. Your solicitor or will writer may be able to take care of this for you. It is possible to write your own will without taking any professional advice, but you will need to take extra care to ensure that you do not end up with an invalid will because the correct procedure has not been followed.
Important considerations when writing a will may include
- Who will be the beneficiaries? You need to state the full names of all beneficiaries, together with very precise details of what is being left to them
- Think about who you wish to benefit. For example, do you wish to help a particular individual or group of people?
- Are there any charities you are closely affiliated to which you wish to help?
- Have you taken advice on how to minimise any inheritance tax liability?
- Have you specified a residuary legatee, i.e. someone who will receive the remainder of your estate once all specific legacies have been made? If you fail to do this, part of your estate will need to be handled under the laws of intestacy.
It is common to nominate one or more executors of a will. Executors are appointed to handle the division of the estate on death.
Another important consideration is that, in England, existing wills become invalid upon the marriage or divorce, unless the will specifically makes provision to the contrary.
Marriage and divorce are two occasions on which you must review your will; other reasons for doing this may include:
- The births of new children, grandchildren etc
- The deaths of a named beneficiary
- If you come into possession of any significant new assets
- Any significant changes to inheritance tax laws or tax bands
For those who die intestate with no surviving relatives, their estate is likely to pass to the Government, and you may wish to avoid this.
Will writing is an important aspect of any family finance review. We ask questions about will provision as part of our fact finding process, and we have arrangements with will writers that can help you write a will.