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Why you need to write a will

Although it's easy to put off writing your will, dying without one could create major problems for the loved ones you leave behind.

 

by Michelle McGagh on Apr 04, 2012 at 10:05

Why you need to write a will

Nothing is certain in life except death and taxes. But although most people keep their tax affairs in order, new figures show that more than 60% of people do not have an up-to-date will.

Nobody likes to contemplate their own mortality, so it’s unsurprising that so many people put off drawing up a will. But it doesn’t have to be complicated, time-consuming or cost a lot of money, and failing to draw up a will could have a serious impact on your family, friends and loved ones.

Why should I write a will?

There are practical and emotional reasons for writing a will.

  1. By writing a will you can ensure that your money, property and possessions go to exactly the people you want them to. If you and your partner are not married or in a civil relationship they have no immediate claim over your possessions if you die – the money could instead go to your more immediate family.
  2. If you are married or in a civil partnership you may think your estate goes straight to your spouse on death, but there are occasions when it doesn’t, and this could leave your family in financial hardship.
  3. If you have children who are under the age of 18 you can use your will to appoint guardians to ensure your children are looked after if you die. If you do not appoint someone the courts will appoint someone on your behalf.
  4. A will can specify who will deal with the administration of your estate on your death, meaning there will be no family in-fighting or deliberation over the distribution of your estate.
  5. Dying without a will ('intestate') could make it much more difficult for your family to deal with your estate after you’re gone. 

What happens if I die without a will?

Dying intestate has major consequences for where your estate goes. How you estate is treated depends on your marital status and the value of your estate when you die intestate.

Scenario 1

  • Marital status: married/civil partnership
  • Other family: none
  • Value of estate: £250,000 or less
  • Outcome: spouse/partner gets everything

Scenario 2

  • Marital status: married/civil partner
  • Other family: none
  • Value of estate: more than £250,000
  • Outcome: spouse gets everything

Scenario 3

  • Marital status: married/civil partnership
  • Other family: children
  • Value of estate: more than £250,000
  • Outcome: first £250,000 plus personal possessions goes to the spouse/civil partner and they are entitled to a life interest in half of whatever is left over. The other half goes to the children immediately.

Scenario 4

  • Marital status: married/civil partnership
  • Other family: no children but parents or siblings
  • Value of estate: more than £250,000
  • Outcome: surviving spouse/partner is entitled to a £450,000 share of the estate plus personal possessions. Half of what is left also goes to the spouse/partner, and whatever is left goes to the parents. If there are no parents, whole blood brothers and sisters are next in line.

Scenario 5:

  • Marital status: unmarried
  • Other family: no children but surviving family
  • Value of estate: any
  • Outcome: your estate goes to your family in the following order: parents, whole blood siblings, whole blood nieces and nephews, half siblings, half siblings' children, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins.

If you have no surviving family then your estate goes to the Crown.

Remember, intestacy rules do not recognise unmarried or ‘common law’ partners so your partner, even if you have been together for a number of years, will not have any entitlement to your estate unless you expressly mention them in your will.

If you're a divorcee, dying intestate could mean your assets go to your former partner, which may not be what you want.

How do I write a will?

There are a number of ways to write a will nowadays; you don’t have to go to a solicitor.

Professional will writer

A good place to start is the Institute of Professional Will Writers. The organisation is a self-regulating body of will writers, all of which adhere to a code of professional conduct. Professional will writers tailor your will to your exact circumstances, which is more expensive than do-it-yourself versions, but will ensure your estate ends up in the right hands. 

DIY

You can pick up a ‘will pack’ from a stationers or just write it on a piece of paper. However, wills need very specific wording in order to be valid. So if you are doing the latter, you must make sure that the wording is correct. This is an inexpensive way to write a will, but it's not really suitable if you have complex financial or family arrangements.

Online

There are a number of websites that collect your information and draft your will from it. The information you provide will need to be comprehensive in order for the will that is drafted to be correct. Similarly to the DIY will, writing a will online is not suitable if your circumstances are complex.

Bank or building society

Banks and building societies quite often offer will-writing services, but they do not write the wills in house. Instead they send your information off to a processing centre where the will is written. Be warned that last year four high street banks, Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and RBS, were slammed by the Office of Fair Trading for the huge fees charged for will writing.

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4 comments so far. Why not have your say?

John Fachiri

Apr 04, 2012 at 15:45

In clicked on the link for The Institute of Professional Will Writers and got a Professional Wrestling site!!

report this

Monty Knight-Olds

Apr 04, 2012 at 17:56

go to http://www.ipw.org.uk/

report this

Win Cummins

Apr 05, 2012 at 15:30

Always use a solicitor as we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority You can go to your local law society and they will be able to guide you to a solicitor who specialises in this field Solicitors are regulated and they too adhere to strict code of practise

report this

The Wills Man

Apr 10, 2012 at 10:46

@Win Cummins. Obviously you are are unaware of IPW.org and if that is the case you are not a suitable person to make such comments!

The LSB discovered that there were as many invalid or poorly drafted Wills written by solicitors as anyone else - including those with absolutely no training or qualifications!

@Everyone else - you have been warned!

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