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Write Your Will, Clear Your Mind, Live Your Life

Write Your Will, Clear Your Mind, Live Your Life.

Surveys consistently show that around half of UK adults have not yet made a will.

There is a common misconception that only the wealthy need a will but the reality is that everyone should have one – even if you’ve not got much to leave. Writing a will doesn’t have to cost a fortune and it won’t take long. Whatever your circumstances, it’s definitely worth doing. If not, you risk leaving your grieving family with a whole host of problems and the possibility of great expense.

A recent survey looked at the reasons why people put off writing a will, with 46% saying they have nothing to leave, 15% not wanting to think about death, and 14% simply not having got around to doing it. Others worried about the time it might take and the amount it might cost.

Granted, the idea of not wanting to think about death is a big sticking point, with many people still not comfortable discussing it. But talking about dying won’t make it happen – it might feel a bit morbid at first, but remember that by making sure that your own wishes are set down, you are choosing a really positive course of action to help and protect your loved ones in the future. Once the will is written, you can simply get on with living your life, safe in the knowledge that you will have made things more certain and straightforward for those you care most about, should anything happen to you.

What happens if you die without a will?

Dying without a will can leave surviving loved ones in a real mess. It can cause problems that take a long time to sort out, be financially draining and worst of all, it can trigger arguments that can split families apart.

The reality is that in the UK, if you die without a valid will you will have no say in what happens to your estate. In this scenario the law decides – the legal term is intestacy. Under the rules of intestacy your estate will be divided among certain blood relatives in accordance with a strict order of priority, and this may very well not be in line with your wishes.

Although some rules were updated in October 2014 in a bid to offer more protection to close relatives, certain relationships are still not protected. For example, if you and your partner are not married, your partner has no entitlement to anything, even if you have children together. Similarly, step-children and step-grandchildren currently do not automatically inherit.

But wills are not simply about property or possessions - critically, if you have young children, you can use your will to set out who you decide should be their legal guardian. You can also use your will to set out who you wish to be your Executor(s) and even to specify your funeral wishes.

So a properly written will is particularly important for parents and cohabiting couples, as well as those who have remarried and may have more complicated family structures.

When should you write a will?

Another reason commonly cited by people for not having made a will is that they are too young to think about it. In reality, none of us knows what the future holds, so the earlier people start inheritance planning, the better protected their loved ones will be.

A will can be revised later if necessary, or written to take into account certain changes that you expect - for example, if you are living with a partner but think you may get married you can have wills written “in contemplation of marriage”. Inserting this means a will is still valid after you marry.

Should you do it yourself?

You need to think very carefully before opting for one of the cheaper DIY options without legal assistance.

According to one national law firm, around a quarter of the wills it sees in it's probate and estate administration department are DIY documents. Of these, approximately a third are deemed ineffective in some way. This could include ambiguity in the wording and misunderstanding of legal terms, and in some cases wills have not been witnessed. This can result in an estate not being distributed as the person intended and can also have a significant impact on the length of time and money it takes to administer an estate.

It’s also worth noting that anyone can set themselves up as a “will writer”, so it is important to ensure you are using a specialist legal professional who is qualified, regulated and insured. Using a solicitor will ensure that everything is set up correctly and could prevent some serious mistakes.

Once you’ve drawn up your will it is important to ensure it remains up-to-date. As a rule of thumb you should revisit it every three to five years – or when there is a material change to your life, such as marriage, children or divorce.

If you would like to talk to Close Thornton about your will, or about any other aspect of inheritance planning, our highly experienced team will be here to help and guide you through the process. Please contact Partner Iain Robson on 01325 466461 or email law@close-thornton.co.uk

Iain

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