Top reasons to write a Will
According to a study, more than 61% of the British population do not have a Will – that’s nearly 30 million Britons. There are various reasons for this, but perhaps the most common is not getting around to doing it. We lead busy lives and Wills are often one of those things on the ‘to do’ list that keeps getting ‘bumped’ when more immediate issues demand our attention.
There are also people who are happy to let their families sort it all out after they are gone. This act of trust is often done with best intentions, however not having a Will can cause the families left behind unnecessary distress at an already difficult time.
While it can be an uncomfortable subject to address, not having a Will can cause irrevocable damage to family relationships and may result in your family having to pay excess inheritance tax.
Why Write a Will?
As we explained in our article ‘Writing a Will: The Facts’, having a Will ensures everyone is aware of your wishes for what should happen to your money, possessions and property (collectively known as your ‘estate’) after you have gone.
It also allows you to share your wishes for your funeral service, such as which type of ceremony you would like, any specific music you would like to be played or favourite readings.
13 Reasons to Write a Will
- If you die intestate (without a Will), your estate will be shared out according to the law instead of your wishes. If you have no living relatives, your possessions could be sold off and the proceeds could go to the government.
- If you are separated but still legally married (or in a civil partnership) then your ex-partner can still inherit under the rules of intestacy.
- If you are unmarried and living with your partner (also sometimes incorrectly referred to as ‘common-law’ partners they are only entitled to anything you jointly own, such as savings and in some situations property.
- If there are children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren and the estate is worth more than £250,000 then the spouse will receive all the personal possessions, the first £250,000 of the estate and half the remaining estate.
- Your children will not inherit anything if there’s a surviving partner and the estate is valued at under £250,000.
- If the estate is valued at over £250,000, the children will inherit one half of the value above £250,000 in equal shares. This also applies where a parent has children from other relationships.
- Your grandchildren will not automatically receive anything (unless you have no surviving children).
- Anything jointly owned will pass to the surviving owner. This can cause issues when couples have purchased a house together and later separated without changing the names on the mortgage, especially if a new partner had subsequently moved in. (Note this is not the case if the property is owned as tenants in common.)
- If both parents die without a Will, the courts will decide who is to look after the children. A trust is set up for the children and the trustees will also be chosen by the courts.
- If you do not make a Will it could mean your family pay more inheritance tax than they need to. Inheritance Tax is charged at 40% of the value of the estate above the available allowances.
- If you and your partner die at the same time, in a tragic accident for instance, then the oldest is assumed to have died first. Legally this means if you are older than your spouse, and you die intestate, your assets pass to them and then immediately on to their family meaning that members of your family could lose out.
- If you do not make a Will the courts will appoint an Executor, this can cause a delay and until decided there is nobody to assume responsibility for your estate.
- You may have particular personal possessions that you wish to go to friends or family members and a Will can ensure this happens.
Write a Will and Look After Your Children’s Future
Appointing a guardian is considered the most vital reason for parents of young families to write a Will.
As we mentioned above, if both parents die intestate then the decision regarding who would look after the children is made by the court. While a judge will try to make the best decision for the children, they can only base it on information available to them such as income, standard of living, age and relationship to the child. If you do not write a Will they will not know your wishes, which may be based more on shared values, religious or moral beliefs, the integrity of the people involved and their relationships with your other friends and family.
You may be happy for your spouse to receive all of your personal belongings, £250,000 of your estate and half of anything above that, with your children getting an equal split of the remaining half.
However, you may decide you’d like to exercise some discretion as people don’t have equal lives; careers, redundancies, marriages, divorces, children, health issues, other inheritances – all of these things can affect the financial situation of your children meaning an equal distribution of your estate may not be the fairest solution.
If you die without a Will then any inheritance owed to your children will become available to them at the age of 18 (or earlier if they marry). Many people feel this can be rather young to manage a potentially life changing sum of money. Writing a Will means you can decide the age at which they receive it.
It is worth noting that although the money is being held in trust, it can still be used for things such as education or medical needs. The trustees will help in making these decisions, protecting the balance to ensure it is passed to the child at the stated age (our Wills Team can help advise on appropriate trusts).
The next steps are simple;
Set up an appointment with one of our advisors to write your Will – It’s easy and we try to make it as pleasant as possible. You don’t need to have all the answers at the first appointment, we can help you through the process. Don’t go to a Will writer or other unqualified person touting for your business – there is a risk your final Will may contain errors and the Will writer may not be insured so suing them might not be an option. If someone makes a Will but it is not legally valid, the rules of intestacy decide how the estate will be shared out, not the wishes expressed in the Will.
Update it throughout your life – it is important to update your Will if your circumstances change, if you marry or enter into a registered civil partnership, any previous Wills become invalid.
How We Can Help
At Osborne Morris & Morgan, we understand that this can be an emotional time. Our experienced advisors are committed to providing long-term support and are always on hand to respond to any questions.
Unlike unqualified will writers, our advisors adhere to tight regulations and are trained in preparing Wills that stand up to close inspection.
We charge filed fees for the preparation of Wills which include advice on related subjects such as inheritance tax, setting up trusts etc. We can also advise on how to deal with someone’s affairs after they have died.