Judging by the fact that over half of UK adults are yet to write a will, setting aside time for this pesky task appears to be one of those jobs that is either overlooked completely or continuously put off.
It is estimated that around a third of UK adults will die without ever having made a will, a state known as dying “intestate”. This is possibly due to all the myths and misconceptions that exist about the process of making a will, or because the concept of dying is not something readily discussed amongst family and remains a taboo topic in most UK households.
So why write a Will?
One of the main reasons to write a will is that it is likely to result in a lot less stress for family and loved ones, who will be dealing with their grief and will need logistics and instructions to be clear cut after you have passed away to avoid any further turmoil. If you were to die intestate, your assets would be distributed according to the law, which may not be in accordance with your wishes and could lead to family disputes.
An example of this is when famous author Stieg Larsson died; all his assets and his literary estate were passed to his father and brother, whilst nothing went to his partner. The couple were together for 32 years, but under Swedish law, without a will unmarried partners have no right of inheritance. This is the same under UK law, too and unfortunately happens far more often than it should.
It is especially important, therefore, to write a will if you have a partner, but you’re not married or in a civil-partnership. If you live with a partner, but you are not married, it is likely that your partner will receive nothing if you die.
If you have children under 18, it is important to appoint guardians in your will to determine who would look after them if you and your partner pass away. If you don’t appoint guardians, the courts will appoint them instead. If you are likely to pay inheritance tax on your estate, you should also consider writing a will for your children’s benefit; otherwise they will bear the responsibility of this price when you pass away.
We spend much of our lives working for the benefit of our loved ones and it is certainly worth spending a few hours putting together a will to help them financially when you are no longer here.
How to write a Will
There are a number of ways to write a will so the best method will depend on your circumstances. You can:
- Use a solicitor
- Use a Will Writer
- Do it yourself
Using a Solicitor
Using a solicitor is the best option for the majority of people. They provide the greatest peace of mind as they are heavily regulated and extensively trained to understand and execute wills for a variety of different circumstances.
Solicitors are regulated by the legal ombudsman and have thorough training in writing wills, so you can be sure that everything is watertight from a legal perspective. For extra assurance, you can use a solicitor who is accredited by the Law Society.
It is an especially good idea to use a solicitor if you’ll have to pay inheritance tax, you have children with a former partner, you have overseas assets, you run a business or you live with a partner who is not your husband, wife or civil partner. These more complicated scenarios are easily dealt with by a solicitor, whereas if you try to create a will yourself, you may miss out important elements which could effectively cost thousands to the beneficiaries.
Most solicitors will also store the will for you, which is another important thing to consider. Wherever you store the will, make sure you tell the executor where it is. You could also ‘lodge’ a will with the Probate Service, but you have to lodge it with them officially and make an official request to get it out again.
Using a Will Writer
Using a will writer could be seen as a ‘happy medium’ – it’s less expensive than a solicitor, and less likely to contain mistakes than a DIY will. You can make an appointment to speak to a will writer, complete the details online or even through the post.
A will writer should only be used if you understand the basics of how wills work. It is important to remember that the Will Writing industry is not as strictly regulated as solicitors are, and will writers may not be legally qualified.
Writing it yourself
You can write your own will yourself; you can buy DIY will templates or kits online, or even from your high street stationary shop. You should only consider writing a will yourself if everything is straight forward though – for example you want to leave everything to your partner, or to your children if your partner dies before you.
Even when an individual’s circumstances are relatively simple, there are many mistakes that are commonly made when writing a will. People often fail to get it witnessed by two independent adults at the same time, names are spelt incorrectly and the document is not signed in the correct manner.
It is extremely important that you know what you are doing if you choose to make a will yourself.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens’ Advice states:
“When wills go wrong, people may lose their only source of income, property is left in limbo, and the financial and emotional cost of dealing with the fallout can be huge.”
Writing a will is a job that should not be put off. It is important to get one put in place, to give you the peace of mind that after working many hours for the benefit of your family and loved ones, they will not have to spend time and money sorting out the details of your estate once you have passed away. It also reduces the risk of any claims against your estate or any disputes that may arise after your death.
If you are unsure about the process of writing a will, or if you financial circumstances are in anyway complicated, we would always recommend using a solicitor. The cost of writing a will does vary according to your circumstances, but typically costs no more than a few hundred pounds. It could save your loved ones thousands in the long run.