The majority of us do not have a will, according to savings and investments provider Standard Life – but do we all need to make a will, and what happens if we don’t?
Standard Life’s research recently found more than a quarter of people aged 65 and were yet to make a will, citing idleness as the most common reason for putting it off.
Not having a will prepared could mean your assets are distributed against your wishes after you are gone, so it’s important to prepare a will to ensure your wishes are carried out. For example, your life savings would be distributed according to law, rather than how you had intended.
Why is it important to write a will?
When someone dies intestate (without a will), you might assume that their assets would automatically go to their spouse or civil partner, but that’s not necessarily the case.
Your spouse or civil partner would be the first person to inherit, but they wouldn’t necessarily get everything. It actually depends on what your estate is worth and which of your blood relatives are alive to inherit.
For example, if your estate is worth more than £250,000, your spouse or civil partner would only get the first £250,000. Anything worth more than that and they would get life interest on half of the remaining estate, and would be unable to sell or spend the assets.
If you died intestate and had no surviving blood relatives, all your assets could even go to the Treasury.
Making a will ensures that your assets go to the family members you choose and can also enable you to minimise the amount of Inheritance Tax, which is currently payable at 40% on estates worth £325,000 or more.
Another, non-financial reason it makes sense to make a will is if you are the parent or guardian of a young child – because it allows you to appoint a legal guardian or guardians to look after the child until they are 18 years old.
How to write a will
You can either hire a professional to write a will for you or you can write one yourself. The latter is obviously cheaper, though you may prefer the peace of mind you’ll get from a professional.
You can find a professional will writer in your area at The Institute of Professional Will Writers’ website, ipw.org.uk.
Alternatively, you can buy a ‘DIY’ will-writing kit online, or from a high street stationer. You’ll need the signatures of two witnesses who can’t be beneficiaries of the will.
You’ll also need to assign an executor to the will, who will take responsibility for distributing the assets after your death. This needs to be someone you trust and, if possible, is younger than you.
Writing your own will can cause legal complications if you make any mistakes with your calculations, or even spelling mistakes, so it’s something you need to take your time with and get checked by someone else.
Of course hiring a professional reduces the chances of legal complications like these.