Making a will

Making a will

It’s very easy to put off, or not get around to, making a will. But not doing so could cause issues for family left behind. More than half of UK adults might not have a will, but here’s why you should.

Daniel Hutson From the Life team
4
minute read
posted

Why do I need a will?

Making a will helps to ensure that your wealth and possessions go where you want them to when you pass away. Wills can be especially important if you’re an unmarried couple, because you’re not in a legal partnership and so aren’t entitled to inherit anything if your partner dies.

If you’re married and then divorce, you might want to edit your will to have a say on what happens to your assets if a former partner remarries.

Also, if you have children, you can say in your will who you’d like to act as a guardian for them if you pass away.

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What happens if I don’t have a will?

If you die without leaving a valid will, your estate will be distributed according to a legal directive called intestacy. Basically, intestacy dictates the way that an estate is shared between a partner and family members.

Only married or civil partners, along with some other close relatives, can inherit under the terms of intestacy. Of course this may not be how you want your estate to be divided – hence the importance of making a will.

Where should I start?

You should begin by thinking about who you’d like to be a beneficiary and what you’d like them to inherit. It could be a good idea to speak to your family, as they might have suggestions you haven’t considered. Before you begin writing your will, you should fully understand your assets and your debts.

Your assets include any property, savings, shares and investments, pensions, life insurance policies and other belongings. Your debts include anything you owe – such as mortgages, loans and credit card debts. This gives you the net value of your estate. Remember, the value will change constantly, which is why you may need to amend your will if your circumstances change.

Should I write my own will or go to a solicitor?

Writing a will can be pretty straightforward. You may not even need to go to a solicitor. There are lots of will-writing services online, and also some charities offer this as a service in exchange for a donation. That said, it's usually a good idea to seek legal advice so that you know you've done it properly.

You’ll need to decide who will act as the executor – the person or people responsible for carrying out the wishes and for sorting out the estate. It can be a big job, which involves collecting all of the necessary paperwork and paying off debts and other costs.

If you have a complex family situation, perhaps with previous marriages and stepchildren, this may also need special attention. There are many solicitors who specialise in wills.

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What makes a will legally binding?

In order for a will to be valid, it must typically be:

  • Made by someone who is at least 18 years of age
  • Done without any pressure from any other person
  • Made by someone of sound mind who is fully aware of what they’re doing
  • It must be signed in writing and witnessed by two other people who also sign

If any of these stages aren’t complete, then your will may be considered invalid. As soon as the will is signed and witnessed, it’s considered a legal document and is complete. Finally, it’s worth being aware that some life insurance policies offer a free will-writing service.

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