There are few certainties in life, except that one day each and every one of us will die.
And when we’re gone, it will be our family and loved ones who are left to sort out our money and belongings, including any property we might own. Their task will be made so much easier if you have written a will.
If you make a will it means that you decide who gets what – not the law. For example, you might not want your next of kin to inherit everything but prefer to split your estate – and specific personal belongings – between several relatives and friends. You might wish to provide financially for other dependents and loved ones, or leave a special piece of jewellery or family heirloom to someone you know will treasure it.
If you die without having made a will – in other words, intestate – your wishes will not necessarily be known, and even if they are, there will be no legal requirement for anyone to carry them out.
The grieving process is often made worse by money worries, legal complications and even family squabbles over the deceased person’s possessions.
If you do not leave a will, the following people will not automatically inherit:
- unmarried partners (no matter how long you have been together)
- relations by marriage
- close friends
In a nutshell, if you die without a will, it will be the laws of intestacy which determine who inherits your estate and not you. And if you have no surviving blood relatives, your hard-earned wealth will go to the Crown.
For more information about inheritance tax, the rules, current thresholds and how to pay it, visit www.gov.uk.
Writing a will
If you make a will, you can ensure that the people you love benefit rather than distant relatives, the Inland Revenue or the Crown.
If your affairs are simple, i.e. you are married or you do not own property, you are over 18 and have mental capacity, you can choose to write your own will. There are templates available online to help you with the wording.
Make sure your will is legal by checking it complies with official guidance.
If your personal or financial affairs are more complicated and/or you own property, it’s important you take professional advice.
The Money Advice Service explains why you should make a will and how to do it.
Free Wills Month brings together people over 55 with well-respected charities. Simple wills are written or updated free of charge by participating solicitors (there may be a charge for more complicated wills) and people are encouraged to leave a gift to one of the charities (although there is no obligation). The campaign is run every few months but you can register in advance.
Will Aid UK is a similar scheme, which brings together people who need wills, solicitors and charities which support some of the poorest communities in the world.
SAGA offers a fixed fee will writing service to existing customers aged 50 or over.