Making a will is important and yet it’s thought that more than half of people over the age of 50 have not written one and made no provision in the event of their death. A will sets out what happens to your estate – your money, all your possessions and your property – when you die. If you don’t make a will, then the courts will end up deciding how your estate is apportioned after your death and this may mean that your relatives do not get the inheritance that you or they want.
What’s important about a will?
When you make a will, your family and friends will have a much simpler time sorting out your estate after your death. If you die without making a will, then it’s almost guaranteed that this will be more complicated, take longer and cause unnecessary stress and anxiety for your loved ones.
When you die without a will being in place, then all your property, possessions and your money will be shared between your relatives in a way that is laid out in law. Your beneficiaries will also likely be liable for the full rate of inheritance tax, something that can be reduced if you plan for your death in advance by writing a will.
If you’ve got children or other dependants, then making a will is particularly important to make sure that they are taken care of after your death. It is also important if you want to leave something to somebody who is not a member of your immediate family.
What happens if I die without making a will?
When you don’t make a will, then the law will decide who gets what and what share. Your relationships with these beneficiaries will not matter – it is most likely that your estate will be shared out equally among your immediate family.
There have been plenty of horror stories involving where somebody has died without making a will. There have been cases where parents have had to take their own children to court to get a share of the estate when their unmarried partner dies because, in these cases, the law is clear that the children receive everything.
Dying without a will is called intestacy or dying intestate. If you are not married or in a civil partnership, then your partner is not legally entitled to anything when you die. In cases where you are married, your husband or wife will inherit the majority or all of your estate leaving your children with nothing.
If you die without a will and don’t have any close relatives, then everything you own will go to the Crown – this is called bona vacantia.
What does a will do?
Your will is important because it sets out who should have your property, money and possessions when you die. It also makes clear who will be responsible for organising your estate after your death – your executor – and how they are to share it our according to your wishes so long as thee comply with the law.
While it might not always be possible to follow your wishes exactly, there is a much higher likelihood of these being carried out if you make a will.
How to make a will
You need to start thinking about how you want your estate divided up after your death. It will make things clearer and simpler for your beneficiaries if you start talking to them about your plans before you write the will.
When it comes to writing the will itself, there are three ways that you can do this:
- By using a solicitor which will cost you up to £300
- Using a specialist will writing service. This will cost somewhere between £80 and £150
- Buying a template online or from a stationery shop. This can cost as little as £10
While one of the cheaper options may sound attractive, there are reasons why it makes sense to choose a solicitor, particularly in certain circumstances:
- If your estate is worth more than £325,000 which is the threshold over which inheritance tax is due
- Your family circumstances are complex with former partners or estranged children
- You want to leave something substantial to somebody outside of your immediate family
- You have a disabled family member who you want cared for after you die
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