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Why should you write a will?

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Posted by Kate Anderson on 26 March 2020

Kate Anderson - Will Drafting Lawyer
Kate Anderson Chartered Legal Executive

At present, it’s hard to miss the daily news reports regarding the growing number of cases of coronavirus and, sadly, the subsequent deaths. As the situation and lock-down looks set to continue over the next few weeks, or potentially months, we expect to receive increasing numbers of enquiries about making a will.

The government has recognised the importance of making and updating a Will during this time so those involved in the execution of Wills are classified as key workers.  This means we are pleased to be able to continue to provide our Will writing service to you.

To ensure the safety of our clients, whilst still providing our usual level of service, we will discuss your Will by telephone, video call or email.  We will then let you know how to arrange for your Will to be signed correctly.  We will provide all the support that you need to do this and for those unable to comply with the strict witnessing requirements due to their vulnerability we have alternative arrangements available to you.

So why is it important to have a Will? Here’s 15 reasons why:

  1. You have control as to what happens with your money, possessions and property when you die, i.e. who gets what from your estate.

  2. You choose your executor/s who will handle and distribute your estate according to your wishes. You can choose people you trust, and who you have confidence in to act responsibly.

  3. Without a will, you die intestate. The ‘intestacy rules’ will decide for you who will benefit from your estate, which may be contrary to your wishes. The intestacy rules also determine who will deal with your estate.

  4. You can name the legal guardian of your child or children (whilst they are under 18), so you know who will be able to make decisions for them if you and their other parent die. If they don’t have a legal guardian, or there are complications, the decision could be made by the family courts.

  5. You may provide financial support for your children, dependants, loves ones and pets through your Will. You may decide to set up a trust, with express instructions as to how the money can be used. For example, depending upon your beneficiaries the money may be set aside for maintenance, fees, education, a house deposit or to be received upon attaining a certain age.

  6. Without a will, only your spouse or blood relatives will automatically inherit from you and even in those circumstances it is not as straightforward as you may expect. If you want to provide for your unmarried partner, step-children, foster-children or other loved ones you will need a will to do this.

  7. If you own your family home outright and your unmarried partner or step-children aren’t in line to automatically inherit your estate, they could lose their home. With a Will you could provide a right to reside in the property or perhaps pass on your share of the home to them.

  8. You may be able to help your family avoid disputes and arguments concerning your estate. Contesting a Will or making a claim against an estate when a Will hasn’t been made or is out of date can be expensive and stressful, often breaking-down family relationships. This can often be avoided with a professionally drafted and up to date Will.

  9. Your existing Will may be invalid. If you’ve re-married since writing your Will or your Will has not been executed correctly, your Will may be invalid. If this is the case, your estate will pass under the intestacy rules (see point 3).

  10. Your Will may still be valid when you don’t want it to be. If you are divorcing or have separated since writing your Will, your Will still stands. You need to ensure that your Will reflects your current situation, otherwise a previous partner may still benefit from your estate even if you don’t want them to.

  11. Similar to 10 (above), you may need to change or even re-write your Will if something happens to one or more of your beneficiaries before you die. This may also be the case, where an executor dies.

  12. You may be able to reduce or avoid the amount of Inheritance Tax (IHT) payable on your estate. The amount depends on several factors including the net value of your estate and who you decide to leave it to. Your estate left to your spouse or civil partner will automatically be exempt from IHT.

  13. You can leave instructions to your executor. For example, you may request specific funeral arrangements, request a specific person to care for your pets and/or protect your digital assets.

  14. You can choose to support a charity or charities by leaving a gift or donation. This may also reduce the amount of IHT payable on your estate.

  15. You may be able help reduce the worry, work and stress for your loved ones going through a difficult time following your death. A professionally drafted Will often results in a cheaper and quicker administration of an estate.

Remember, it is important to regularly review your Will to ensure it remains relevant to your circumstances. We would suggest that you review your Will every 5 years or after any major event in your life such as moving to a new house, marriage, divorce or having children. You cannot amend your Will once it has been signed and witnessed, however you could change it, in some circumstances, with a codicil.

About the author

Kate Anderson

Chartered Legal Executive

Kate advises clients on powers of attorney and estate planning including the preparation and use of wills and trusts.

Kate Anderson

Kate advises clients on powers of attorney and estate planning including the preparation and use of wills and trusts.

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