Making a Will means that we have to think about our own death which is something that none of us like to do.
Unfortunately death is a fact of life that we can't escape from. We can however make it easier for the loved ones we leave behind if we make our wishes clear on who we want to benefit from our estate.
If you don't make a Will your money will be divided up according to the rules of intestacy and this could mean that the people you thought would benefit won't. Making a Will avoids the intestacy rules where, if you die leaving a spouse or civil partner and children or grandchildren, your spouse or civil partner will receive,
This could cause real hardship for your spouse or civil partner.
If you die without making a Will and you are married or in a civil relationship with no children your spouse or civil partner will only receive,
The other half of the rest of the estate will be shared by the surviving parents or if there are no surviving parents, any brothers and sisters (who shared the same two parents as the you) will get a share (or their children if they died while the you were still alive). If the you have none of the above, your husband, wife or registered civil partner will get everything.
A Will is particularly important if you are partners but aren't married or in a civil partnership.
Contrary to popular belief if you aren't married or registered civil partners, you won't automatically get a share of your partner's estate because you share a home, if you die without making a Will.
If your partner was left in real hardship the only option would be for them to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. This can be a lengthy process and may not produce the outcome you would wish.
The estate will be distributed amongst relatives who survive you. If you have no relatives then the money will go to the Crown.
If you have been married before you may not want to leave everything to your second spouse or partner outright. You may wish to leave something to children from a subsequent marriage. In this case having a Will can ensure a trust is in place so that the second spouse or partner will receive income during their lifetime or possibly until their re-marriage. Any capital would then pass to the children.
A Will is vital if you have business assets. Not only will it ensure that you consider carefully who the business assets will be left to but also how the Will is drawn up. It needs to be as inheritance tax efficient as possible.
Making a Will is probably one of the most important documents that you will ever be called upon to fill out. There are lots of off the shelf will forms available and they can save you money.
Unless your estate is very simple, it is always better to employ either a Solicitor or a Will writing service provider, to ensure your wishes are carried out correctly. Even your Bank will probably offer a Will writing service. Banks however, usually expect themselves to be appointed as one of your Executor's, but you don't have to agree to this. You can appoint whoever you wish to be Executor.
If you decide to do your own Will consider having two Executors, in case one doesn't survive you. If both survive you then they can share the decision making and work involved in tying up your estate.
If you do write your own Will, you need to sign it in the presence of two independent witnesses. Neither of these should be beneficiaries under your Will. They should also sign the Will in each others presence and yours. In other words you all need to be present and sign the Will at the same time.
In the U.K. the Law Society promotes "free Will Making" usually in the autumn. Local Solicitors offer a Will writing service free in return for a legacy clause to one of a number of nominated charities. So you agree to leave say £100 of your estate to Alzheimers Research or some other charity, in return for a free Will writing service.
If your Will is not a simple Will, and it's a more complex one, they may charge, but at a greatly reduced fee. These promotions are usually advertised in local newspapers and even on T.V. and are well worth looking out for if you haven't yet made a Will.
When leaving a well drafted Will you will have the peace of mind knowing you have made the best provision you can for those you leave behind. The alternative could be that all of your assets end up in the Crown Coffers!
Find out more about Make a Will free and help your favourite charity.
For further resources and information on Making a Will
Age Concern factsheet on making a will if you're over 60. This is a downloadable pdf document.