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Why writing a will is so important

15th February 2018

Writing a will is a financial responsibility far too important to ignore. Although disputes over the estates of the deceased have provided us with gripping drama for years – just look at Dickens’ Bleak House – 60% of British people have not written a will. Whether it’s because people don’t like thinking about their own mortality, or if they simply don’t feel wealthy enough to justify writing a will, it is worth facing the inevitable and putting a will to paper.

But, why do you need a will? What happens if you die without a will?

With this article, we’ll explain exactly why preparing a will is such an important financial move and how to make sure you do it right – otherwise it’s likely that your heirs will be looking at a lot of financial and emotional trouble down the line.

 

Four basic reasons

The Money Advice Service gives four main reasons as to why writing a will is so important for everybody:

1. It will make it a lot easier for your friends and family to sort out your assets after you’re gone. Without a will, the organising of your estate can take an emotional toll on your loved ones. As we’re all aware, the dividing up of an estate can lead to bitter arguments, and divides between your family and friends, so ensuring that you have accurately outlined your wishes is really important.

2. With no will, you don’t get to choose where your estate goes upon your death. If you die without a will, the law of intestacy would be invoked and you could potentially see your entire estate being left to the government – read on for more information on intestacy laws.

3. A will can also help to reduce inheritance tax on your estate. For instance, if you donate 10% of your estate to charity, the inheritance tax will be reduced by 4% on everything else.

4. If you have dependents or wish to leave any part of your estate to somebody outside the family, a will is especially important. Intestacy laws follow a process in regards to who benefits from your death, so if you have specific requests they won’t be carried out unless you write a will.

 

What exactly happens if I die without a will

Dying without a will is referred to as ‘dying in intestate’; this is when the law of intestacy is used. We have outlined the order in which your estate would be delivered to your heirs through intestacy law.

If you have a spouse and children:

  • Your spouse will inherit all your possessions and the first £250,000 of your estate and half of whatever is left over after that. The final half will be passed on to your children. If you are separated from your spouse, this is the order through which your inheritance will be passed. However, no part of your estate will go to a spouse you have divorced.

If you have a spouse and no children:

  • Your spouse will inherit the entirety of your estate.

If you have children and you have no spouse or civil partner, or they are deceased:

  • Your children will inherit the entirety of your estate. Your estate will be divided equally between the children.

If you have no partner or children:

  • In this case your estate is passed down to surviving relatives as follows; parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles. This has caused issues in the past, with the estate of people who have died in intestate having half of their estate given to a biological parent they have never met. If there are no surviving potential heirs to your estate it will be sold and the monetary value given to the government.

Ultimately, not writing a will is not good for anyone. Passing away without a will takes away your freedom to control exactly what you’d like to do with your estate once you’re gone. For instance, if you’d like to leave anything – possessions or capital – to a friend, without a will, they would not receive them.

 

How to write a will

Now that you understand the importance of writing a will, you’re probably wondering where to start when it comes to writing your own. Although you can get cheap – or even free – will writing kits online and on the high street, we don’t recommend it. Much of the legal language in wills is confusing to say the least. There have even been cases of cheap will kits being entirely incorrect, making the deceased wishes invalid.

You’re better looking to professionals to help you write your will. You could choose a solicitor or use a professional will writing service, just like the kind we offer at IMC. With a professional, will writing is a fairly straightforward process:

Firstly, you’ll need to value your estate and plan out how you’d like to divide your assets. An estate planning service can help you organise this with ease, making the whole process run smoother. While you’ll likely decide to leave the majority of your estate to friends and family, it’s worth remembering that you may also wish to leave a ‘legacy’ to a charity by donating some of your estate to a charity of your choice.

Once you’ve decided who you’ll be leaving your estate to, you’ll need to choose executors for your will. These people will be responsible for carrying out your wishes correctly. Choosing someone with financial knowledge to be your executor is very important. Therefore, once again, we’d recommend that you choose a professional for this job.

With everything else in place, it’s time to actually write your will. As we’ve said, doing this with a professional is the best course of action, and will avoid any nasty surprises further down the line. Finally, when you sign the will, you must ensure that you are in the presence of two witnesses who will co-sign the document. You should choose your witnesses carefully as neither they, nor their spouses, can benefit from the will.

Having done all of this, your will should be a valid, legally binding document. So make sure you store it safely, whether that be at home, with a bank, or with a solicitor. At IMC, we have a will storage facility to ensure that your important documents are kept as secure as possible.

Find out how to ensure your will is legal and valid here in our post on the legal requirements of wills.

 

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