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Let's be honest… we are all going to die. And if it happens when you are without a will, on top of the grief, it can cause a financial nightmare for the people you care about.

What is a Will?

A Will is a legal document which you create to give directions for the distribution of your Estate (assets, property, money, jewellery) you own on death to Beneficiaries. The Will indicates who will manage your estate (the Executor(s) of your Will) and, if need be, appoints Guardians to look after minor children when both parents have died. A Will is therefore a very important document and everyone over the age of 18 years should make one. It provides certainty and comfort to those who survive.

Do you need a will?

Dying without a will can leave your affairs in limbo for years. Yet many either don't want to think about it or are worried about the cost. You must be aware it could leave behind big problems, possibly as severe as being unable to pay the bills as the bank has frozen the accounts. Therefore...

Whatever your age, if you've assets eg, a house, savings, or a business, and people or others you'd like to look after, you should consider making a will.

While thinking, talking & planning for death may feel uncomfortable, you need to consider how much worse the situation would be if you died or became incapacitated - through illness, accident, old age or emergency - without sorting it.

There are many specific reasons to write a will including:

Children: If you have children or step-children under 18, you should choose who will look after them and ensure there are funds to help.

Unmarried couples: The law doesn't really recognise this, so without a will don't expect anything to go to your partner.

Divorced: You may want to update your will to include what happens to your assets if a previous partner remarries.

Pets: Decide what should happen to family pets.

Specific funeral plans: If you know what you want your funeral to be like, you can detail it so that your family doesn't have to make the decisions.

Property: ‘Joint tenant' mortgages automatically pass to the other owner but if you've a ‘Tenants in common' mortgage it's important to say what happens to your share of the house. If you own a property overseas, inheritance laws may be different to the UK.

Change in circumstances: Update your will when you marry, divorce or have kids.

Small business: It's possible with sole directors, that if you die without executors no one can make decisions to authorise payments (including to staff), so your business could collapse.

What does a will do?

A will has three main functions…

  1. To name your executors
    1. These are the people who'll look after the financial process when you die. Try to choose a responsible and trusted friend or relative, who can think clearly in a troubled time. Alternatively some name a bank or solicitor, though they often charge monstrous fees (and can add themselves automatically), so ensure you only allow this if you've chosen it for yourself.
    2. They're also the people who will sort out any finances – such as paying off the mortgage and/or other debts out of the estate (see what happens to debts when you die). One useful tip we've seen recently is to even include internet passwords in a will so that your executor has access to all of your online accounts.
    3. Do remember though, you're under NO obligation to add the writer of your will as an executor, or in fact buy any additional services on top of the writing costs. Some may suggest this, or even apply to your will as default, so check before signing anything.
  1. To distribute your estate
    1. This is where you work out who you want your estate to go to. That means everything you own at the point you die, including property, businesses, car, savings, investments, pension fund, life insurance, expensive jewellery, pets and more.
    2. Be aware though you can't force people to take what you leave them. Whether it's a sofa, or house in negative equity, they don't have to take it.
  1. To mitigate inheritance tax
    1. If you die intestate (without a will) there are strict laws about to whom and how your estate is distributed. This causes two problems – first the money may not go where you want – and secondly it's likely to be inefficient for inheritance tax purposes.
    2. The law says you pay 40% of any assets worth over £325,000 that you leave, so those with valuable houses or larger estates could pay a fortune. Yet there are many legal ways to plan to reduce this, please contact one of our specialist Wills and Intestacy lawyers.

Contact us today and we will answer any questions you have.