Why It's a Good Idea to Write a Will
Is writing a Will one of those things you've been putting off? Most of us focus on the here and now, especially at this busy time of year. And, let's face it, writing a Will can be pretty sobering since it makes us think about our own death. Even though there are plenty of good reasons to write a Will it can be hard to take the first step.
Writing a Will needn't be either a time-consuming or morbid process. In fact, you might find a few moments of happiness during the process when you spend time thinking about those near and dear to you and the part they play in your life.
Is it time to update your Will?
If you already have a Will then it's also good practice to regularly review it and make sure it's up-to-date with your current circumstances and wishes. There are several life events after which it's especially important to update your will, including:
- getting married or entering into a civil partnership (any existing Will is automatically revoked upon entering into marriage or civil partnership)
- when getting divorced or dissolving your civil partnership
- if you are separating from your spouse or partner
- on the birth or adoption of a child.
Changing your Will with a Codicil
You don't always have to completely re-write your Will if you want to make a change. If you want to, for example, change your executor or make a new bequest then a simple codicil might be appropriate. A codicil is also a legal document and it needs to be correctly witnessed and signed.
If you already have several codicils attached to your Will then it might be a good time to re-write the entire Will to keep things simple and make sure your wishes are correctly interpreted.
Writing a Will in your 20s
If you're in your 20s or 30s you may think you're too young to worry about making a Will. Certainly, you may not have a huge portfolio of assets to consider but there are other reasons why you might like to think about a written Will. If you engage in high risk sports or have a job that means you travel widely, then having a Will in place might be a good idea. Anyone over the age of 18 can make a Will.
If you die without a Will (i.e. die 'intestate') they the laws of intestacy determine how your belongings are divided up. Generally speaking, your assets will go to your next of kin so if your parents are still alive then they are likely to inherit your estate. This may be exactly what you want, but if you want to leave gifts to other family members, friends, charities, boyfriend/girlfriend, any children you may have then a Will is the way to do it.
Another thing to consider is that by writing a Will you nominate an Executor: the person(s) who will wind up your estate. Your Executor will have to go through all the details of your life: your paperwork, bank statements etc. If you don't want your parents to do this then you can use a Will to give the task to someone else. You should check with the person you name as your Executor first before appointing them in your Will.
You can also use a Will to say what kind of funeral arrangements you want. If you have different religious beliefs to your parents then you may want to set out details of what you would like in the way of a funeral or memorial service.
Wills and Unmarried Couples
Unmarried partners cannot inherit under intestacy law. So, if you are cohabiting with your partner and are nether married nor in a civil partnership then if one of you dies without a Will the survivor will not have a right to inherit. Your surviving partner could apply to the court for financial provision from your estate, but there is no guarantee that the court would grant a payment and it could be a lengthy/expensive process.
You are not required by law to have a written Will. Nor do you have to use an official form if you want to write your own Will. Having said that, there are certain things that are required in order for a Will to be legally binding:
- the person making the Will (the testator) must have capacity i.e. they must understand and know what they are doing when making out a Will (be of 'sound mind')
- the testator must have intention i.e. intend to give away their property as set out in the Will
- the testator must not have been coerced or pressured into making the Will, or tricked into making the Will or any part of it by fraud
- in most cases a Will has to be written (and it can be written in pen, ink, pencil or typed/printed)
- the Will must be signed by the testator (or someone on their behalf) in the presence of 2 witnesses who also sign.
If any of the above are found to be not true then a court can set aside your Will.
You can write a Will yourself, without seeing a solicitor or accountant. We offer a range of simple Will templates that are suitable for adults in the UK with straightforward needs. If, however, you have any concerns about how to manage your estate, inheritance tax, have substantial assets and/or complex family arrangements then it's important that you seek legal advice before making out your Will. If you need help in finding a solicitor then the Law Society's Find a Solicitor website might be useful.