There can be many aspects to your life that affect the decision to make a will or at least ought to encourage you to look at how those around you may be affected by your demise. If you make a will this will help to ensure that your estate goes to help those who will continue to need your help or simply show to others that you valued their friendship or help during your lifetime. Here are some of the questions that you might ask.
Why do I need a will?
We spend our lives working to provide for ourselves and our loved ones. You may have a house or flat, shares, savings, investments as well as your personal possessions. All of these assets are your ‘estate’. Making a will helps to make sure that when you die your estate is shared according to your wishes.
Everyone should have a will, but it is even more important if you have children, you own property or have savings, investments, insurance policies or you own a business.
What happens if I die without a will?
If you die without a valid will, you have no say in what happens to your estate. Instead, the ‘Rules of Intestacy’ will divide your estate in a way that Government has decided and this may not be to people who you wished to benefit. It also may not be carried out in the most tax-efficient way. If you have no family surviving you then the chances are that the Government will inherit the estate.
If you live with someone, even if you are married, are in a civil partnership or have step-children, they may not automatically inherit your estate. Under the Intestacy Rules a partner may not be entitled to inherit anything.
How do I make a will and why should I use a solicitor?
First, you must list what you will have in your estate, then you can decide how your estate is to be shared amongst those you want to benefit (the beneficiaries). You should also think about:
- what happens if any of your beneficiaries die before you do
- who will look after your children (if you have any)
- who should carry out the wishes contained in your will (your executor)
- any other wishes you may have, for example whether you want to be buried or cremated.
Trying to make your own will, without legal assistance, can lead to mistakes or lack of clarity and could mean that your will is invalid. If you have a number of beneficiaries and your finances are complicated, it is even more important that you get a professionally trained solicitor to create your will. This makes it easier for those you leave behind as the clearer your wishes are and the more that technical issues are covered the less there is for the Courts to interpret and others to argue.
When should I update my will?
Once you have written your will you should review it regularly to make sure it reflects your wishes, especially if you:
- get married / enter a civil partnership as a will is automatically cancelled by these events
- get divorced
- have children or other relatives you wish to benefit, for example nieces, nephews or grandchildren
- have bought a new property or have recently obtained expensive assets (such as buying a new car)
An information leaflet on wills and probate is available from the Law Society in the following formats: