The old saying goes that “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” However, when it comes to a legal will the lack of this document can mean major problems.
Making a will is something that many people don’t like to think about. The end of life isn’t pleasant to contemplate, but a will is vital if you want to be sure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes when you die. It’s better to face the issue and be certain that things will happen the way you want and that your family won’t be left with a problem.
What is a Will?
A will is a legal document that sets out what you want to happen to your property after your death. In simple terms it ensures that the people you want to inherit get what you want them to have. It can also be used to set out who will manage your affairs after you die, who will look after any children that are under 18 and any special requests you have for your funeral.
In addition you can use your will to determine who will inherit any family heirlooms. You can also set out any donations that you want to make to charity.
Even if you already have a will you need to make sure it’s kept up to date. Did you know for example that your will becomes invalid if you marry or enter into a civil partnership? Also if you get divorced and your former partner was included in your will they’ll be treated as having died before you.
What Happens if You Don’t Have a Will?
More than half of people in the UK die without leaving a will and this often creates problems. It can lead to disputes among your relatives that can cause additional stress and may even result in hefty legal bills. This can lead to long delays which may mean that your family are left with financial uncertainty as your estate is dealt with.
You can’t assume that your spouse will inherit everything. Your children could inherit a proportion automatically and other relatives may have a claim on the estate. On the other hand, if you’re separated your husband or wife could still have a claim on your estate.
If you have a partner but aren’t married or in a civil partnership, then not having a will could mean that they don’t get anything at all when you die.
If you die without having made a will or if your will is invalid – because it wasn’t completed or signed properly – then you have, in legal terms, died “intestate”. In this case the law will decide who gets to inherit what and in the worst case scenario your estate passes to the government.
Making a Will
In England and Wales anyone over 18 can make a will. You can of course make your own will but there is a risk that it may not be valid or will be open to dispute. It’s better to go to a solicitor or a specialist will writer as they have experience in the field and can make sure your wishes are properly set out in the document.
If you are married (or in a civil partnership) it is a good idea to work together with your partner to craft your will. That way you can ensure that both your sets of wishes are protected. Making a will forces you to think about what you want to happen after your death. So it can be a good opportunity to review your affairs and work out what’s important to you.
If you have a properly drawn up will it ensures that nothing is left to chance and gives you peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out. Once it’s made, however, do make sure you keep it up to date to reflect any changes and events in your life.
Paula Whately writes regularly on family finance and knows that not leaving a will can lead to major problems. To find out more about making a will visit a site such as www.steelrose.co.uk