Should you have a Will?
Who needs a Will, a Funeral Plan or Inheritance Tax planning?
The simple answer to that question is everyone: everyone with a family, friends or favoured charities and anything for them to inherit – or to ensure they don’t inherit, or limit what they receive. You might think that having a will is necessary only for people with a lot of money or relatives who argue. These people certainly do need wills, but so does everyone else.
But over 70% of British adults do not have wills. And of those that do, 66% have out-of-date, ineffective or ‘leaky’ documents which are open to challenge, needlessly exposing their major assets (like their home) to inheritance tax, don’t make provision for care home fees, don’t accurately reflect their current wishes – or all of the above.
Making a will is not a once-in-a-lifetime event. The world is ever-changing and your needs and wishes may well change several times over the course of the years.
Here are just a few of the reasons you should make or revise your will now:
- If you have children or step-children under 16 in Scotland (18 in the rest of the UK) having a will means you, not the courts, choose who will look after them as well as who will hold the funds to help them receive an education and financial support as they grow up.
- If you are co-habiting but not married or in a civil partnership, keep in mind that the state does not really recognise ‘living together’. If you pass away, your partner may get nothing. He or she might even be forced to give up your house or face a lengthy and expensive court battle to receive anything at all. Even worse, the court might appoint a guardian for your children, or their mother’s family assert their right to take control, even if you are their father.
- In Scotland, divorce or separation or remarriage does not render your will null and void. Only with a decree absolute after divorce does your Ex disappear from being an executor or beneficiary – they do still keep their right as a guardian or children under 16. You may find that your current Words keep nagging!
- You can decide what should happen to family pets, and set aside funds for their care. In the UK, pets are the sixth most popular beneficiary in wills, and 1.5 million people have planned to leave everything to their pets.
- You can decide what you want in the way of specific funeral plans, from the service – or lack of one – to the flowers, music and more, so that your family doesn’t have to make even more decisions at a stressful time. Funeral arrangements often cause major family arguments, which can reverberate for years, causing unnecessary distress.
- You can decide who benefits from your home and other property and help reduce the likelihood of its sale for care-home costs.
- You can stop your second family hijacking your children’s inheritance or you can ensure that your step-children receive what you wish them to have without being specifically named in a will stepchildren get nothing!
- If you are a sole director of a small business and die without executors or a will, and supporting documents don’t reflect your wishes, it can be the case that, with no one in place to make decisions or authorise payments (including staff wages), your business could collapse and your family and employees be left in financial difficulties.
- If you made a will in one country but lived the majority of your life and died in another, your will might be open to challenge or not be fit for purpose.
- Even if you do not own a house or a car, a will ensures your pension, insurance policies, rainy day savings, jewellery or other treasured collections are passed on as you wish after your death – whether to children, friends, relatives or even a favourite charity.
If you die without a will you will be what the law calls ‘intestate’. This means that a legal formula of prior and legal rights for paying your creditors and dividing any remaining assets will be put in place. Needless to say, how the state chooses to divide your goods will probably not be how you would have wanted it to be done!
From personal experience I know that intestacy or out-of-date wills cause all kinds of stress and problems – and an expense of at least four figures over a timeframe of several years – for grieving families. Certain loved ones can feel left out or ‘short-changed’; children can spend weeks and months arguing about who got X or what to do with Y – and paying the legal bills for the privilege to boot.
No family history or financial situation is too complicated for a sympathetic, understanding and worldly willwriter to work out – and after over a decade as a willwriter, I’d like to think I’ve seen it all! The Law Society advises us to review our wills every five years but they really should be looked at every time we experience a major life change of any kind: family, financial, geographic or emotional.
Can you really afford not to spend a couple of hours to make sure your wishes happen, and to give yourself – and those you leave behind – the peace of mind that comes from knowing that everything is taken care of?
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