Making a will is important – especially for protecting your family and loved ones when you die. But knowing when to write a will can be tricky and it’s usually down to personal preference.
However, there are some key moments in an individual’s life when it may be apt to write a will, such as buying a home, having children, or getting married.
Below, we’ve outlined exactly what a will is, the reasons you might have for making a will, when you should make one, how to make one, and what happens if you don’t make a will.
What is a will?
A will is a legally binding document that informs people of what you would like to happen to your possessions and money after you pass away. This may include your property, furniture, cars, who will look after your children (if applicable), and even your debt.
You might even include details about your funeral in your will, such as whether you’d prefer a cremation or burial. Many people also leave something in their will to charity and it’s important to specify one that’s important to you, so you know where your money is going.
Although you can write your will yourself, it’s recommended that you seek the assistance of a solicitor. This doesn’t need to be expensive; in the UK, Free Wills Month happens every October, which allows people of a certain age to create or amend their will without a fee. Usually solicitors ask for a donation to be made to a charity instead.
Reasons for making a will
There are many reasons for making a will, but some of the most common ones include:
- Ensuring your children or dependents are looked after
Although this does relate to financial matters, it also means who will look after your children should both you and your partner die. You may have named godparents when your child was born, however these individuals will not have any legal rights, unless named in your will.
Financially, you may decide to specify in your will that you would like your children’s education to be paid for or put money into a trust fund for them, so that when they turn 18, they have access to some money.
- Ensuring your partner or spouse is looked after
If you’re married, your spouse will legally be entitled to certain assets if you should die before them – and vice versa. However, if you’re unmarried, but live with your partner or have been in a long term relationship, you need to specify within your will what your partner is entitled to, otherwise they may end up with nothing at all in the eyes of the law.
Leaving your estate to your spouse or civil partner also means you won’t pay inheritance tax and therefore won’t lose out on money.
- Ensuring your assets are split equally
It’s estimated that almost 60% of people do not have wills, which can cause upheaval when an individual dies. From family disputes to disagreements, a will can be a simple way to ensure the people who you want to benefit from your will do, and the people who you don’t want to benefit, wont.
A death in a family is already a stressful enough time; having a will created can help with easing decisions for family members.
When should you make a will?
Often people don’t make a will because they don’t think they’re old enough to or just don’t set time aside to get things organised. This can be devastating for many families, especially if the death is unexpected.
You should consider making a will if:
- You and your partner aren’t married, as they won’t automatically be entitled to anything
- You get divorced and your previous partner is still written into your will
- You decide to have children, so that you can specify who their legal guardian should be
- You have bought a property
- You have received a large sum of money, either from inheritance or lottery win
How do I make a will?
If you have an uncomplicated situation, for example, you have a small family, then creating a will is not a lengthy process. Simply write down who and where you would like your assets to go to and speak to a solicitor about making the document legally binding.
However, if you have a more complicated set up, such as a large amount of assets and multiple properties, it would be beneficial to sit down with a solicitor from the beginning of writing your will, to ensure you include everything you need to.
A simple will usually costs from £144 to write and anything more complex, can cost up to £600. As mentioned previously, Free Wills Month runs throughout October, allowing you to create or amend a will for free, usually with a donation to a chosen charity.
What happens if you don’t make a will
If a loved one has died without making a will, this can be a distressing time. If someone has died without a will, their assets and estate will be divided up according to intestacy law. Intestacy law determines who receives what based on family connections. This makes matters very complicated, if the person who has died was unmarried, but had a partner, or if there are any estranged children.
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