Almost half of adults have not yet made a will, according to research carried out by Co-op Legal Services. It found that just 53% had put down in writing what they wanted to happen in the event of their death.
It’s not a job anyone relishes, but if you die without leaving a will, you could leave costs and complications for your loved ones to deal with, alongside a great deal of heartache.
Writing a will doesn’t cost a fortune and it doesn’t take long. Whatever your circumstances, it’s definitely worth doing. If not, you risk leaving your grieving family with a whole host of problems.
Talking about dying won’t make it happen. It can feel a bit morbid at first, but knowing you’ve got your plans and affairs in order can be a great relief. You can then get on with living the life you have, safe in the knowledge that everything is in place for loved ones.
What happens if you die without a Will?
It can leave surviving loved ones in a real mess. It can cause problems that take a long time to sort out, and can trigger arguments that can split families apart.
The reality is, if you die without a valid will you will have no say in what happens to your estate. In this scenario the law decides – the legal term is intestacy. Under the rules of intestacy your estate will be divided among certain blood relatives in accordance with a strict order of priority, which may not be in line with your wishes.
If you are not married your partner has no entitlement to anything – even if you have children together. Step-children and step-grandchildren also do not automatically inherit.
So a will is particularly important for cohabiting couples, as well as those who have remarried and have complicated family structures. Also, it doesn’t just ensure that the right people benefit immediately after your death – it can allow you to make sure that a new partner stays in your home when you die, but that your children will still be in line to inherit.
With this paperwork in place, you can also make sure more of your estate goes to your loved ones rather than into the chancellor’s coffers in avoidable inheritance tax. In addition, you can use this document to set out who will be your executors – the people who will oversee the distribution of your estate. You can even use your will to set down your funeral wishes.
Should you do it yourself?
If your affairs are very straightforward, you could consider buying a DIY kit.
You need to think very carefully before opting for one of the cheaper DIY options without legal assistance. According to Co-op Legal Services, around a quarter of the wills it sees in its probate and estate administration department are DIY documents. Of these, approximately a third are deemed ineffective in some way. This could include ambiguity in the wording and misunderstanding of legal terms, and in some cases wills have not been witnessed.
It’s also worth noting that anyone can set themselves up as a will writer, so it is important to ensure you are using a specialist legal professional who is regulated and insured.
While using a solicitor is more expensive than going down the DIY route, it will ensure that everything is set up correctly – and could prevent some serious mistakes.
Once you’ve drawn up your will it is important to ensure it remains up-to-date. As a rule of thumb you should revisit it every three to five years – or when there is a material change to your life, such as marriage, children or divorce.
Having helped many clients over the years,I will be delighted to assist in drawing up or reviewing existing Wills and answer any questions you may have.