It’s hard to get excited about the idea of writing a will, especially as it means accepting our mortality, but it’s one of the most important things you can do for your family, and for your finances.
Having a will can give you peace of mind that your money and other assets will go exactly where you want them to after you die – and save those left sorting out your estate from a potentially huge administrative and financial headache.
Here are six good reasons to write a will, as well as some resources to help you get started.
1. You can pass your assets to who you want
The most obvious reason to get your will drawn up is that it will allow the contents of your estate to pass to your partner, children, and any other family and loved ones who you want to support.
This is particularly important if you have loved ones who aren’t financially independent, and rely on you for support. For example, if your spouse isn’t employed and you have young children, you will want to make sure your estate moves to your partner as quickly as possible so that if you die, they won’t have to worry about money during the grieving process.
This is even more important if you are not married to your partner, or if you have dependents who are not directly related to you, as they will likely have no claim to your estate at all if you die without a will.
Even if you are married, don’t assume that there’s no need for you to draw up a will. Our article Do I need a will if I’m married? goes into more detail.
2. It can prevent disputes and arguments
If you die without a will, you are considered to have died ‘intestate’. This means that your estate gets passed on according to specific rules, known as intestacy laws, which set out a specific order in which your family receives your things.
There are lots of people that intestacy laws don’t include, such as friends, step-children and unmarried partners. This means that if there’s anyone you want to leave part of your estate to someone who falls into one of these categories, they won’t be entitled to any of it unless you’ve specified your wishes in a will. There are plenty of stories of people who had promised certain things to friends or family but never put it in writing, resulting in lengthy arguments and sometimes even legal battles when that person passed away.
To find out more about how intestacy laws work, read our article Sorting out an estate when someone dies without a will.
3. You can leave a legacy to charity
People often decide to write into their will that they want to leave money or other assets to a particular charity that meant a lot to them, or maybe even helped them personally.
If there is a charitable cause that you care about and want to leave something to, then including your wishes in your will is not only the best way to guarantee this, but it is also very tax-efficient.
Gifts to charity left in your will are not subject to inheritance tax, and if the gift you leave is worth 10% or more of your estate, it will actually reduce the amount of tax charged on the rest of your estate from 40% to 36%.
4. You may be able to reduce any potential inheritance tax liability
Inheritance tax generally needs to be paid on any part of your estate valued at over £325,000, or £650,000 for married couples, but the amount payable is based not only on its value of your estate, but who you leave it to. For example, property and assets left to your spouse are exempt from inheritance tax, and there’s also an additional allowance of £175,000, known as the main residence nil rate band, which can be used if you’re planning to leave your home to your children or grandchildren. If you don’t have any direct descendants, you won’t qualify for this allowance. You can find out more about how inheritance tax rules work in our article Understanding Inheritance Tax. Essentially, then, the rules around how this form of tax works mean that you may well make tax savings by being specific about who gets what in your will.
Read about more ways to keep inheritance tax down in our article Six ways to reduce inheritance tax bills.
5. You can include your funeral wishes
One function a will can have is to lay out your funeral wishes, so that your loved ones know exactly what sort of send-off you’d like.
You may also want to outline your wishes regarding your medical treatment if you become too ill to communicate. This is a special type of will called a ‘living will’ and needs to be written carefully, ideally with the help of a legal advisor, so let your solicitor know if you want to include this information.
Alternatively, if there is a person you would like to nominate to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf in the event of your declining health, you can set up a lasting power of attorney at the same time as you’re writing your will. You can read more about how to do this in our article How to set up a lasting power of attorney.
6. It’s never been easier to do
Writing a will is far more straightforward than it used to be. Nowadays, there are many services online that you can use to draw up a will for a relatively low price provided your affairs aren’t too complicated.
There are a number of different will writing services available in the market so it can be worth shopping around to compare prices, customer reviews and service levels.
Which? provide an easy and affordable way to write your will and ensure the people you care about are looked after when you’re gone.
They’ve done everything they can to make the process as straightforward as possible, including printing and delivery to your door. You can even get your will reviewed by their specialists to make sure it’s completed correctly.
Prices start at £99.
To learn more about why it’s so important to have an up-to-date will, check out our article The importance of writing a will.
Or, if you’re worried about your will being contested and want to make it as ironclad as possible, read our article 10 ways to make sure your will isn’t challenged for more guidance.
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