Why make a Will?
The short answer is that it’s the only way to be sure your possessions will be shared out according to your wishes. Despite this, nearly two thirds of us die without making a Will.
There are many misunderstandings about making a Will. Many people believe everything automatically passes to their husband, wife or partner, and that making a Will is expensive and not worth the time or money.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s the law as it stands at the moment and a few good reasons why it’s a good idea to make a Will.
Married couples and civil partners
If you die without a Will then your estate is distributed according to the Intestacy Rules as laid down by Parliament.
For example, a surviving spouse or civil partner only receives everything if there are no children, or the total value of your estate falls below certain limits. Otherwise your spouse or civil partner has to share your estate with other relatives. This can cause a great deal of stress and hardship, particularly if your home forms the majority of your estate and your spouse or civil partner is forced to sell it and share the value with unsympathetic relatives.
It’s likely that these rules won’t match your wishes, so the sensible thing to do is make a Will.
The law here is changing but it is still fairly inflexible. The basic rule is that if you die without a Will, your surviving partner is not entitled to anything. They might be able to claim against your estate, but this usually means going to Court and invariably results in long delays and distress.
Children under 18
If your children are under 18 it’s vital you provide for them should you and your spouse both die at the same time. By your Will you can cover them financially, appoint legal guardians and trustees of your choice, so that your children are brought up and cared for in the way you want.
By making a Will you can ensure your friends have something special to remember you by and you might choose to leave a legacy to your favourite charity or charities.
How to make a Will
Before you come to see us, it’s useful to gather together a few facts and figures – like the names and addresses of people and organisations you wish to benefit and personal details about yourself and family.
It is also helpful to set out your assets with an estimate as to their worth and tell us whether they are in your sole name or jointly owned.
Appointing an Executor
The executor is the person responsible for carrying out your wishes and who will administer your estate before distributing it according to your Will.
Your executor will have to deal with various officials, friends and family. This can be stressful, especially if your executor is also a family member. So it is important to think about who that person should be.
Naturally, you should choose someone you can trust for this key task, such as a friend, family member, your solicitor or other professional or a combination. When appointing executors, we strongly recommend that you name two.
When should you change your Will?
Getting married or entering a civil partnership cancels any Will that you have previously made, unless you make one shortly beforehand specifically in anticipation of the marriage or civil partnership.
If you are separated but not divorced your spouse or civil partner may still benefit from your Will, no matter how many years have passed, so you may want to make a new one. Again, if you are separated but now living with a new partner, that person may receive nothing unless you make a new Will.
If you make a Will providing for your spouse or civil partner and you subsequently divorce or your civil partnership is dissolved but you still wish to provide for that spouse or civil partner, you will need to make a new Will.
Updating your Will
Wills reflect your situation at the time they are written, so it’s worth checking your Will every few years or when circumstances change.
- does it still match my wishes?
- should I change it to take into account new family circumstances (for example, the arrival of children and grandchildren)?
- would I like to benefit people, charities or other organisations it currently doesn’t mention?
- is my estate now worth more or less than when I made my Will?
If you decide to change your Will then we strongly advise that you seek professional help. Do not try and change it yourself.