So many of us put this job off but it is important to write a legally binding will that details the people/organisations to whom you want to leave your assets. If you don’t write a will it is likely that the government and HMRC will be the main beneficiaries.
There has been much more of a push over the last few years, with schemes such as ‘Free Wills Month’, encouraging us to write our wills. Dying intestate (without a will) can become a huge headache for your family and it stops you from ensuring that your assets go to the people you want to benefit.
Charities have been instrumental in the will writing drive. Legacies are a good opportunity for them to raise substantial sums through individual donations. Leaving a charitable legacy in your will can help your other beneficiaries as less inheritance tax is deducted from the estate.
What is a will for?
First and foremost it gives you the opportunity to state who you would like to give your property and money to after your own death.
If you have children and other dependents you can explain who you would like to look after them if something happens to you. You can also make financial provisions to support them.
When you write a will you must name your own executor(s) so you have the chance to choose someone you really trust to carry out your wishes after death.
Writing a will also helps you review your estate and you can then decide whether you want to pass on property to beneficiaries before you die and reduce the amount of inheritance tax they pay.
So what options do you have? DIY wills, which can be bought from stationers, are low cost but there is always the potential for errors. Mistakes could invalidate your will particularly if you have no experience in this area.
Charities, such as Cancer Research UK, often offer a ‘free’ will writing service but this is usually on condition that you leave a legacy to them.
If you use a solicitor they provide a legally binding will and costs are relatively low starting at just over £100. Throughout the year there are organisations that partner solicitors and offer free wills but there are usually limitations – eg: the service is only offered at certain times of the year or only to people above a certain age.
Will writers generally offer a cheaper service than solicitors but it is worth bearing in mind that they are currently unregulated.
However you decide to proceed, ensure that you store your will safely (many people will choose to do this with their bank or solicitor) and always provide your executor with a copy – don’t forget to let them know where the original document is kept.
Managing your estate after death can be difficult for executors and they face unlimited liability if they make a mistake so it may be worth suggesting they take out executors insurance as soon as they take on the role to protect them against any claims.