The most important thing you can do in your lifetime, to ease the pain for your friends and family when you die, is to write a will. This details what is to happen to your assets and possessions after you die. It can also specify critical things such as who would be the legal guardians of your children, grandchildren or any other dependents in such unfortunate circumstances.
What are the risks of not having prepared a will?
The most important reason for leaving a will is to ensure your wishes are respected when you die. It typically avoids unpleasant arguments amongst family members and friends. If you die without a will, the legal term is to have died ‘intestate’, a horrible word, surpassed only by the difficulty your friends and family will have in dealing with your estate. There are specific legal rules as to what would happen to your assets and care of any dependents if you were to die intestate. At best, this means your estate may not be distributed as you would wish, a particular concern for couples who are not married or in a civil partnership. At worst, if you have no close relatives, The Crown could end up with your assets!
That’s why it’s so important to have a legally binding will, even if you want to leave your entire estate to charity.
Who will be managing your estate?
As well as specifying who will receive your assets when you die (your Beneficiaries), you need to specify who will take responsibility for managing your estate and carrying out your wishes after your death (your Executors). It’s important that you nominate people who are capable of managing what can be a stressful process at times, and that you can trust their integrity completely. Due to the responsibility placed on them, it’s advisable to ensure they are happy to act on your behalf before you nominate them in your will.
Once it has been written
After your will has been written, you should review it every five years, or sooner if you go through any major life changes (for example, getting divorced, having children or grandchildren, or moving house). You should make sure you keep your will in a safe place and be sure to let your executors know where to find the original version.
How to get started
You can write a will yourself, but it usually makes sense to get expert advice to make sure that the will is legally binding and that your wishes will be followed correctly. There are a number of very highly rated online services that allow you to create a legally binding will from the comfort of your own home, and then simply print and sign the document. Beyond is one such service with a Trustpilot rating of 9.7 out of 10. It charges £90 for a single will and £135 for a joint will. A small price to pay for peace of mind…