Making a will – How to write a will in the UK
It’s difficult to think about and even more so to talk about, but it is important to consider the life of your loved ones when you pass away and writing a will is one way to do this.
Without a registered will, you will have no say in what happens to your property and possessions when you die – under Intestacy Rules in the UK, it will be the law that decides who gets what and how your belongings are split up.
Along with life insurance, a will is an additional and vital way of ensuring that your loved ones are not left in the dark when you pass away.
What is a will?
A will, sometimes referred to as a last will and testament, is an official legal document which outlays how you wish your belongings to be distributed when you pass away.
If you have sole care of a young child or children, your last will and testament will also indicate who you wish to care for them.
You can get a basic will today, which will make sure that all of your assets are left in the right hands.
Why make a will?
Making a will can give peace of mind to both you and your family:
YOU – will get to live your life knowing that, when your time does come, that a life’s worth of hard-earned assets will be passed onto your loved ones.
YOUR FAMILY – will undoubtedly be grateful for the clarity during an already-difficult time.
As well as this, you may have close friends or a partner who would not automatically receive anything under Intestacy Rules as they do not qualify as family – with a will, you can ensure that these important members in your life are not forgotten.
8 benefits of making a will
The important thing to remember when writing a will is that a will isn’t just for you, it’s for your loved ones.
Here are 8 benefits of making a will:
- Your beneficiaries will pay less inheritance tax when leaving property in a will in the UK
- You can decide who will look after your pets
- You can decide who will look after your children
- You can create financial security for friends and family
- You can outlay your wishes for your funeral
- Avoid potential disputes amongst family members
- You can leave your possessions as gifts (e.g. a necklace, watch or car)
- You can decide who will manage the process (known as the executor)
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Executor of a will – What power does the executor have?
When writing your will, you will be asked to name an ‘executor’ – this is the title given to the person tasked with ensuring that your wishes laid out in your will are carried out.
The executor of a will is usually an immediate family member, who will have the legal responsibility of:
- Ensuring your remaining assets are distributed, as per your wishes
- Maintaining any property left behind
- Paying and/or cancelling your recurring bills
- Paying taxes on your property
- Appearing in court on behalf of your property, if necessary
What happens if an executor does not follow the will in the UK?
This is rare, as your chosen executor should be somebody that you trust – but if an executor does not follow the wishes stated in your will, the court may remove them from the role and appoint a new executor.
This can happen if the executor is seen to be stealing from the estate, refusing to follow the terms laid out in the will or hiding assets for personal gain.
What happens if you don’t have a will in the UK?
Dying without a will is known as dying ‘intestate’, meaning that it will be down to the strict laws listed under The Administration of Estates Act 1925 to determine who gets what – these are the Intestacy Rules.
Even if you have made it clear to a family member whom you wish to receive your money, property or possessions, the absence of an official written will can lead to ugly disputes between loved ones.
There are a few particular scenarios in which a will is important:
- Unmarried couples – no matter how long you have been (or even lived) with your partner, they will not be recognised as a beneficiary by the law if you are not married.
- Married couples – if you are married, your spouse will get the first £270,000 plus all of your personal possessions – your children get whatever is left.
- Parents with children from a previous relationship – make sure that your children’s inheritance is safe or, if you’d rather, ensure that they don’t receive too much.
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Contesting a will – who can contest a will?
In the UK, there are a few people who have the right to contest a will. These include:
- The spouse/civil partner of the deceased
- A former spouse/civil partner who has not since entered another marriage or civil partnership
- A child of the deceased
- Anybody who was treated by the deceased as a child of the family
- Anybody who, before their death, was either partially or wholly reliant on the deceased
How to avoid inheritance disputes
As mentioned previously, even an official will cannot guarantee that there will not be any disputes over inheritance. Iit can, however, work in favour for both you and your chosen beneficiaries.
When writing a will, you will be given the opportunity to explain how and why you came to your final decision on who will receive what. This will be taken into consideration by the court in the event of a dispute and, in some cases, could prevent a claim from being made in the first place.
For example, if you have chosen (with reason) to remove somebody (like an estranged child) from your will, you must give a detailed account of why you have done so – or risk your wishes being overturned by the court of law. Similarly, if choosing to leave money to a charity, you should try to provide proof of your affiliation with said charity.
Do I need a will if I am married?
It is commonly known that, when you pass away, your spouse will receive most, if not all of your belongings. This might suit you but, for many, they would rather make their own arrangements.
Without a will, even if you are legally separated (but not divorced), your spouse will receive:
- All of your personal possessions
- The first £270,000 (plus interest from your date of death)
- Half of anything that remains after that
Your children will receive everything else – if you do not have children, your spouse will receive everything. If you wish for others to benefit from your estate then you will need an official will in order to assure this.
You can also use a will to state who you want to look after your children, and their inheritance, if both parents were to die before they came of age.
Any will that you write before marriage will be deemed invalid once you tie the knot, so you’ll need to review the terms of your will when you get married.
I have no assets, do I still need a will?
You may not own your own home, car or even have a significant amount of money in the bank – but a will is for so much more than that.
You might have a piece of jewellery which has been handed down through your family for generations, photos of your child as a baby or a piece of memorabilia from your favourite sports team – all of these things, while they not have much financial value, would have great sentimental value.
When you pass away, everything from your bedsheets to your home must be distributed amongst beneficiaries – a will can help to distinguish who gets what.
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Making a will: A checklist
When making a will, here are the 5 main things you need to consider:
- Beneficiaries – the people you are choosing to leave your belongings to
- Assets – the belongings you are leaving to your beneficiaries
- Debts – some of these will become the responsibility of the estate
- Executor – the person who will handle your will after you die
- Guardians – the person who will care for your child, if their other parent cannot
Bob’s tip: When writing a will, you should consider taking out a life insurance policy (if you haven’t already) to ensure that any debts left behind do not leave any of your beneficiaries in financial difficulty and to cover the costs of your funeral.
When should you write a will?
You may think that you are too young to write a will, but the harsh truth is that you never know what is around the corner.
If you are aged 18 or over and have even a handful of items which are of either financial or sentimental value, making a will is certainly worth considering.
There is no maximum age to writing a will, although you do need to be of ‘sound testamentary capacity’ – this is to protect you from being manipulated if you are unsure what you are doing, or how your actions will affect your family’s future.
Tip: There are certain milestones in your life where you should go back and evaluate your will. For example, when you have a child, you will need to go back to appoint a legal guardian.
Will writing services – How to write a will
If you’re looking to write a will, or wondering what the cost of making a will might be, then you’re in luck – you can get a FREE basic will, right here.
It takes less than 30 seconds to start writing your free basic will, with the good people at Wills.Services on-hand to do the rest.
Your personalised will can be prepared by specialists who will work with you to make sure that all of your assets and your family are protected in a correct and professional manner.
>>> Get your basic will today <<<