Think that if you die without writing a will your nearest and dearest will automatically get your assets? Think again. If you die without having made a will then there is no guarantee that your family or friends will receive a penny of your estate. But most people believe that their property will be distributed according to their wishes, despite nearly 6 out of 10 people not making a will. And being married or having a civil partner makes no difference either, as a person who dies intestate will have their estate divided up according to strict government guidelines, regardless of any family member’s wishes.
Co-habiting partners are even less protected, even if they have children together, as according to the law, they do not have the same rights as married or civil partners, regardless of how long they have lived together. So if you and your partner are not married you both really need to make a will.
And what if you are married? Well, surprisingly even your partner is not fully protected, as if you have an estate valued at over £250,000, and you have children or grandchildren, your partner will only be entitled to your personal effects, plus the first £250,000 of your estate. If there are no children from the relationship that amount rises to £450,000.
The law states that the rest of the estate should be split between the children, parents, siblings, grandparents and even uncles and aunts.
Making a will
Making a will can actually be a cathartic experience, and can re-establish close ties with family members and friends, make you think about who you consider to be emotionally close to you, and who you want to benefit after you pass. It is also an ideal time to plan your funeral. There are a few important points to consider when writing your will, these are:
- Who you want to benefit from your will?
- Who should look after any children under 18?
- Who is going to sort out your estate and carry out your wishes after your death (your executor)?
- What happens if the people you want to benefit die before you?
So how do you write your will?
Do it yourself
You can always write your will yourself, as it is not a legal requirement for someone else to write it for you. So long as it is witnessed by someone and you have signed it, it is a valid document. The problem is that mistakes can be made and can easily invalidate the will. There are also different types of will, so if you have a complicated estate, it may be prudent to seek legal advice.
Will Writing Services
You do not have to use a solicitor in order to write a will, but will writing services are not regulated by the Law Society so if your estate is complicated, you may be best off using the services of a solicitor. If you decide to use a will-writing firm, you should consider using one that belongs to a trade association with a government approved code of practice.
Using a solicitor
Typically the average of a solicitor is around £120 for a single person and £200 for a couple, but the charity Will Aid has set up a partnership between certain solicitors and nine well-known charities, and every November, certain solicitors will write a basic will free of charge in return for a donation to Will Aid. You will be asked for a suggested donation of £90 for a basic single will or £135 for a pair of identical wills for a couple. For more information about Will Aid, together with details of participating solicitors, check out www.willaid.org.uk
Remember, that a will should be redrawn if you divorce, remarry, have children or grandchildren, or if a named beneficiary dies.
Featured Image courtesy Lisa Karloo/Flickr.