Even before the Coronavirus outbreak, you may have wondered “Do I need a Will?” or “I’m too young to write a Will”. Although most people writing Wills in the UK are older than 50, you could write a Will from the age of 18.
A Will controls how your estate is dealt with and who benefits from it when you die. If you died without a valid Will then you would need to rely on the Intestacy Rules (the law) to deal with this. There’s lots of other good reasons to write one. If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the following questions, it could be the right time for you to consider writing a Will.
1) Do you have children?
If you have children who are under 18, you could use your Will to appoint a legal guardian. In the event that both you and the other parent both die, the guardian could take over responsibility for your children. Guardianship can also be used to protect the position of parents who don’t have legal status such as in surrogacy cases or same-sex parents.
The family court can also appoint guardians, and anyone can apply to become a guardian. Having a will in place, which appoints guardians, helps you to retain some control over the care of your children, if you died.
2) Do you live with a partner who’s not your husband, wife or civil partner?
In the UK common law marriage does not exist, even if you have lived with your partner for many years. If you died without leaving a Will, the intestacy rules in the law would mean that your cohabitee would not receive anything from your estate.
Another consideration is how you own your property. If you and your partner own your home as ‘joint tenants’ and you die, your partner would automatically own your home in their sole name. However, if you own the property jointly as ‘tenants in common’ your share of the property would form part of your estate and would pass to your beneficiaries in accordance with your Will or the intestacy rules.
Particular rights can also be included in Wills to allow for cohabitees to be able to live in a property for specified periods of time. This could provide security for them to be able to continue to live in the property whilst also ensuring the asset passes to your chosen beneficiaries.
It is therefore important to check the ownership of your property and consider preparing a Will to ensure that your partner and your family could continue to live in your home.
3) Do you have any funeral wishes?
Discussing funerals with loved ones can be an upsetting conversation and something you might not want to talk about. In a Will, you can provide instructions concerning your funeral arrangements. For example, you might prefer to be cremated or buried, or wish to ensure that your religious practices are followed.
Some people also choose to write a letter of wishes, to let their executors know their preferences or background reasons concerning provisions in their Will. For example, you could ask that people don’t dress in black at your funeral.
It is important to note that funeral wishes are not binding and therefore do not have to be followed by your executors. It can however, help avoid family disagreements or assist loved ones and reduce the stress involved in making these types of decisions.
4) Do you have any pets?
For many of us, pets are part and parcel of our family unit and therefore we want to know they will be looked after if they survive us. You can nominate someone you trust to take care of your pet in your Will but of course, it’s advisable to check that the person is happy, willing and able to take on the responsibility first.
In addition, you could choose to leave money to the nominated person, so they would not be left out of pocket for the likes of food, grooming and veterinary expenses. This could be done by a trust or by a simple cash gift.
5) Do you want to make any specific provisions for a friend or relative?
Perhaps you have a family heirloom such as wedding ring that you want your niece to inherit, or a collection of signed football shirts that you want your friend to receive. If you have any items that you want to go to specific people, your Will can ensure this happens.
Instead of leaving a specific item, you may want to leave a set sum of money from your estate. For example, £5,000 to your sister. A Will also allows you to leave cash gifts like this.
6) Do you want a specific person to have access to your digital assets?
Digital assets could include photos, email accounts, social media accounts, cryptocurrencies, gaming accounts, music or film libraries and much more. They’re not physical possessions but they may still hold a lot of sentimental or monetary value. You could appoint a specific person to deal with these assets or make other specific provisions for them.
It might also be a good idea to let your executors know what digital assets you own and how to access them. We could discuss the best ways to achieve this.
7) Do you want to donate to a charity?
You can provide a gift (usually money) to chosen charities in your Will. This could be out of your residuary estate or specific sums set out in the Will.
If you gift enough of your estate to charitable causes, it may also reduce the inheritance tax payable on your estate.
8) Do you want to make sure someone doesn’t benefit from your estate?
If you have separated from a partner but not dissolved your marriage or civil partnership, they will still inherit a significant proportion of your estate under the law. These rules are rigid and won’t be deviated from, so if you don’t want a partner you have separated from to benefit you need a Will to make this clear and state who should benefit instead. It is possible your Will could be contested, however, it helps to set out your wishes and intentions if a claim was made. Also, if you’ve had a dispute with someone, you can use your Will and a letter of wishes to make it abundantly clear that you do not want them to inherit from you and the reasons why.
Regardless of your age, you might have found that some of the above questions are relevant to you and or someone in your family. If you would like more information on writing a Will or have any queries about this article, please get in touch with a member of our Private Client team.