March is Free Wills Month, so if you’re aged 55 or over and you’ve yet to write a will, or you think yours needs updating, you could get a solicitor to help you free of charge.
Free Wills Month happens twice a year, in March and October. The scheme is supported by various charities, such as the Stroke Association, the Royal British Legion and Marie Curie, with the hope that those who take advantage may leave a legacy to their favourite cause.
You’re under no obligation to do this, but if you use the Free Wills scheme, your solicitor will ask you if you want to include a charitable donation in your will.
Free Wills Month explained
Free Wills Month runs from March 2 until the end of the month, with participating solicitors in locations across England, Scotland and Wales. If you’d like to take part and get your will written or updated, you need to log onto the Free Wills Month website, leave a few details and you’ll then gain access to details of local participating law firms, which you can then contact directly.
Bear in mind that there isn’t a limitless number of appointments available, and they’ll be given on a first come first served basis, so don’t leave it until the end of the month or you could miss out. You must be aged 55 or over to apply, but if you’re in a couple and want to make ‘mirror’ wills only one of you needs to be 55 or older.
If your situation is complicated
If your finances are particularly complex, for example, you might want to set up a trust so that your children receive money once they reach a certain age, then you may need more than a simple will to outline your wishes. If extra work is involved, then you solicitor will need to charge you for this, but they’ll let you know what these costs will be in advance.
Most people only require simple wills, however, which lay out who their beneficiaries are, what they plan to leave them, and who should act as guardian for any young children.
Including gifts to charity in your will
It’s worth noting that financial gifts don’t only help charities who rely on donations to keep going, but they can also help you too. For example, if you’re facing a potential Inheritance Tax liability, there may be tax benefits if you leave a gift to charity in your will.
This is because any donations you make to charity are free of Inheritance Tax, and, if you leave at least 10% of your estate to a charitable cause, you can reduce the Inheritance Tax rate on the rest of your estate from 40% to 36%.
You can find out more about how Inheritance Tax works in our guide to Understanding Inheritance Tax.
Why wills matter
Failing to think about what will happen to your estate when you die could leave your loved ones with a big financial and administrative headache when you die, as if don’t have one in place, your estate will be divided according to intestacy laws. These rules mean the people you want to leave your estate to might end up with nothing.
For example, if you’re unmarried and die intestate, even if you have lived with a partner for several decades, they won’t legally be entitled to any of your estate unless you’ve written a will stating you want to leave it to them.
So even if you don’t manage to get a will written this Free Wills Month, make sure you put it at the top of your to-do list. Find out more in our article The importance of writing a will.
Remember too that once you’ve written a will, you can’t just file it away and forget about it. It will need updating as your circumstances change. For example, if you get married, any existing will is automatically revoked, so you’ll need to make a new one. You can, however, include an ‘expected marriage’ clause in your will, under which you state that marriage won’t revoke the will. Getting divorced doesn’t automatically revoke your will, but any clauses naming your former spouse will no longer be valid.
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