Writing a Will: The Facts
If you haven’t yet written a will, you’re among the almost two thirds of UK residents who have not yet done so.
Spring is often a time when we start to think about decluttering and getting organised for the year ahead. There are different theories about where this notion of ‘spring cleaning’ comes from.
These range from Jewish people scouring their houses before Passover (usually at the beginning of Spring) so as to not offend God by leaving any leavened bread, to people cleaning out the layers of dust, soot and ash that accumulated during a winter of being trapped inside.
Some offer a more scientific reason, suggesting that as we’re exposed to less sunlight in winter the pineal gland produces more melatonin (a hormone that produces sleepiness in humans). In spring, the increase in sunlight means we have more energy and we use this to clean!
Whatever the origin of the spring clean, it’s now well rooted in our traditions. As well as organising and cleaning the house, it’s also a perfect time to declutter our brains by getting our affairs in order.
Nearly two thirds (61%) of Brits don’t have a will
That’s nearly two thirds of the population who will die intestate.
This means the law will decide who gets what of their ‘estate’, regardless of what their relationship was like with those people when they were alive or whatever their good intentions may have been.
In research carried out by Foresters Friendly Society and ICM, children were found to be most affected, with more than three-quarters (77%) of parents who had children under the age of five having not made a will.
Neil Armitage, marketing director at Foresters Friendly Society, believes people are facing significant risks by not creating or maintaining their wills.
“Our research has shown that Brits just aren’t planning for a future without themselves in it. People either don’t have a will, haven’t updated their old one, or haven’t told people where their will is. It’s a great risk to run when the fate of young children and a great deal of money is at stake. This is naturally a subject that people try to avoid but it’s crucial to face up to the inevitable.”
While it can be a difficult subject to address, and one many of us don’t like to think about, leaving it up to relatives to sort matters out after your death can cause irrevocable damage to family relationships.
5 Things You Need to Know About Writing a Will
1. Why Write a Will?
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 die.
You can also use it to let people know about your wishes for your funeral, such as whether you’d like to be cremated or buried. In addition:
- A will makes it much easier for your family or friends to sort everything out when you die – without a will the process can be more time consuming and stressful.
- If you die intestate (without a will), the law will define how your estate is shared out, this may not be the same as your wishes.
- Having a will can help reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax that may be payable on the value of the property and money you leave behind.
- If you have children, or step-children, a will expresses your wishes should one or both parents die.
- If you are in a relationship but unmarried and have not registered a civil partnership you won’t inherit from each other unless there is a will.
- It’s important to update your will if your circumstances change. If you marry or enter into a registered civil partnership, any previous wills become invalid.
2. Do I Need a Solicitor When I Make My Will?
It’s easy for mistakes to be made when drawing up a will and these can affect the will’s validity after your death. Therefore, it’s generally advisable to use a solicitor or at the very least have a solicitor check your will.
While using a template or will writing service may seem a cheaper option, if there are misunderstandings and disputes after your death this can result in substantial legal costs, reducing the amount of money left to be inherited.
There are some circumstances when it is particularly advisable to use a solicitor, including:
- If you share a property with someone who you are not married to, or are in a registered civil partnership with
- You have a child and / or spouse from a previous marriage who may also make a claim on the will
- You have a dependant who is unable to care for themselves and for whom you wish to make provision
- The UK is not your permanent home or you live here but have property overseas
- You have a business.
3. What Do I Need To Prepare Before I Meet With A Solicitor?
To save time (and therefore reduce costs) when meeting with your solicitor, give some thought to the major points you want included in your will, such as:
- What’s included in your estate? List property, savings, pensions, insurance policies, shares, family heirlooms, bank and building society accounts
- Who will benefit from your will? List those you’d like to leave money or possessions to.
- Do you wish to leave anything to charity?
- What will happen to any children under 18 and who will look after them?
- Who will be the ‘Executer’ of your will, ensuring your wishes are carried out?
4. Where Should I Keep My Will And Who Should I Tell?
There are a number of places you can keep your will once you’ve made it. These include:
- At home
- With a solicitor or accountant
- At a bank
It’s important to let someone know where your will is kept. This may sound obvious, but out of the 39% of people who do have a will, 1 in 10 haven’t told anyone else where it is!
5. My Circumstances Have Changed. How Do I Update My Will?
When a will has been made, it is important to keep it up to date. It’s particularly advisable for you to update your will if any of the below apply to you:
- You’ve got married, remarried or registered a civil partnership
- You’ve separated, got divorced or dissolved a civil partnership
- You’ve had or adopted children and want them to be added as beneficiaries in a will.
You must not amend the original will after it has been signed and witnessed; any amendments can be regarded as being added at a later date and make the will invalid.
To change a will you can either:
- Add a codicil to the will – this is a supplement which makes some alterations but leaves the rest of it intact, orGet a new will – this is the advisable option if you’re making major changes to the will.
- Get a new will – this is the advisable option if you’re making major changes to the will.
How We Can Help
At Osborne Morris & Morgan, we understand the sensitivities and emotions that can arise when discussing or thinking about making a will.
Unlike unqualified will writers, our solicitors adhere to tight regulations and are trained in preparing wills that stand up to close inspection.
Whether you’re looking to prepare a fixed-fee will, need advice on inheritance tax planning or are trying to deal with a will and property after someone has died, our team are here to help.
Call us on 01525 378177 or contact us online for more information.