No one likes to think about what will happen when they die and this may be a reason why it is estimated that two-thirds of people in the UK die without having made a valid will. By making a will you will ensure that your family and/or friends avoid unnecessary legal and financial problems at what may be for them a very difficult time.
Our Top Reasons for Writing a Will
You decide how your estate will be distributed. The administration of your estate can take longer and cost more without a will.
Deciding who will look after your children
Dying without a will can result in an inflexible outcome for children and or other dependents.
If both parents of minor children die without a will, it will be the court that can decide who cares for their children – by having a will they can specify guardians in the event of both of them dying.
To avoid a lengthy probate process
What is Probate?
‘Grant of Probate’, or just ‘Probate’, is the commonly used term that refers to this ‘authority’, although there are more specific terms depending on the situation:
In Scotland, Probate is called ‘Confirmation’. This can be applied for by an executor or an executor-dative. This document gives the personal representative full authority to deal with the assets.
In England, Wales & Northern Ireland, a ‘Grant of Representation’ is obtained by an executor (named in a will) by applying to a probate registry. If there is no will, then ‘Letters of Administration’ are obtained which provide the same level of authority
The main responsibilities of a personal representative are to gather in all of the estate’s assets, pay off any debts, and then pass whatever is left to the people entitled to it. In order to do this, they sometimes need to prove to the asset holders (like banks) that they are the correct person to do this.
Choosing your own Executors
You decide who will wind up the affairs of your estate.
Avoiding or minimising estate taxes
A good reason to have a will is that it allows you to minimise your estate taxes.
A significant inheritance tax bill could be reduced or even avoided by a correctly drafted will. The amount of inheritance tax that will be charged from your estate depends on how much you have, and also who you leave it to. Anything left to your spouse or civil partner will be automatically exempt from inheritance tax. Leaving property to your children and grandchildren is also likely to generate a lower inheritance tax bill than leaving it to others.
Disinheritance for those you choose
You can disinherit individuals who would otherwise stand to inherit. In Scotland, it is more difficult to disinherit a spouse or children. It is easier in England but the courts there have a wider discretion to entertain claims from relatives.
Gifts & Charities
You may want to gift to charities or people not related to you.
The ability to make gifts is a good reason to have a will because it allows your legacy to live on.
Avoid greater legal challenges
If you die without a will, part or all of your estate could go to someone you did not intend. If you’re not in a legal partnership, your partner has no legal right to inherit and would have to go through a “claim” process.
Less stress for your loved ones
Dividing up an estate can sadly sometimes lead to squabbles and arguments among your survivors if there is no will or your wishes aren’t made clear.
Contested wills can be damaging to relationships among your family and can also be expensive if decisions about your estate are legally contested.
A well-prepared will can help avoid these arguments and avoid making your passing even more stressful for your survivors.
Protect your digital assets
Nowadays, your assets won’t just include money in the bank and physical goods. Digital accounts and online purchases, such as music, photographs, or websites, also form part of your possessions and can disappear into the void if you don’t account for them in your will. Things like emails and social media accounts also form part of your legacy – do you want the information destroyed, protected, and do you need to make passwords available to your executor?
Say who you want to look after your pets
If you have dogs, cats, or any other pets, they may also need to be looked after if you pass away. It is common to choose someone to look after them and put some money aside to feed them and look after their health.
When Is a Will Valid?
A will that is not properly signed and witnessed is invalid.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, two witnesses are required. Both witnesses need to be in the same room with you when you sign the will. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, you’ll need to be 18 to create a will. A witness does not need any special qualification or public standing but is merely witnessing your signature. However, they must not have any beneficial interest in the will as this could make the will invalid. This means they cannot receive any gifts from the will or be named as beneficiaries.
In Scotland, normally one witness is sufficient, but in limited circumstances, even a will that is not witnessed may still be valid. A will can be drafted by anyone aged 12 or older. If you’re not sure whether your will is valid, check with a solicitor practising under the relevant country’s law.
Because tomorrow is not promised.
Procrastination and the unwillingness to accept death as part of life are common reasons for not having a will. Don’t be that person!