Leaving your property and possessions to your loved ones
There are compelling financial and emotional reasons for making a will. But why do so many of us shy away from it?
When it comes to important decisions – particularly financial ones – we tend to put them off, or make excuses: ‘there’s plenty of time’ or ‘it’s too big a job’.
None of us likes to think about dying, but what happens if you put off making your will? At the very worst, the state could keep everything you own – loved ones get nothing.
When you make a will, everything for which you have worked so hard (including your home) is protected; all your hard-earned assets will go to exactly the people you want to have them. An up-to-date will, therefore, completes the circle of all the financial planning you’ve undertaken.
My family situation is complicated, I don’t know where to start
This is a common problem, but a complex family situation should be an incentive to make a will. If you’re not married but living with someone, your assets will automatically go to blood relatives – not your partner – in the event of your death.
The intestacy rules determine who will benefit from your estate if you die without making a valid will. If you are separated but not divorced, your spouse will still inherit regardless of your intentions. In England and Wales they would be entitled to your personal possessions, the first £250,000 of your estate and would have a life interest in half of anything after that. Children would inherit only if the estate is worth more than £250,000 and any new unmarried partner would get nothing.
If you have no will, two things follow. Firstly, it’s much harder for your grieving relatives to get control of your assets; secondly, rigid rules step in to fill the void and decree who gets what. A painful, practical consequence of that is usually a higher tax bill. Unmarried partners are the biggest losers.
I don’t need a will, I own everything jointly with my spouse/registered civil partner
It’s sometimes true that property and investments would go to your spouse or registered civil partner, but what about any personal possessions that you might wish to pass on?
A will also goes further than just dealing with property. It allows you to appoint executors to deal with paperwork, organise funeral arrangements and give to charity.
My circumstances are changing
You should usually review your will at least every five years and after any major life change such as getting separated, married or divorced, having a child, or moving house. It is best to deal with any major changes by getting a new will drawn up. But it is also possible to make minor changes (codicils) to your existing will.
Wills can be written to cater for things that are about to happen – in contemplation of marriage, for example, or to give everything to children who survive you.
Once you have taken a deep breath and those first few steps in making a will, you can revise it as often as you wish. The hard work has been done. And it is vital to review your will as you get older in any case. Your potential Inheritance Tax liability may change as you accumulate more assets or simply as the value of your house goes up.
I’m too young to make a will
Wills are not just for the elderly. If you have assets, and particularly if you have children under eighteen, you should use your will to dictate to whom those assets go and who should look after your children if you, and anyone else with parental responsibility, die. It’s a sad fact that accidents and illness can happen, and while we can’t control fate, we can control our finances. ν
While we have made every effort to provide accurate information, the law is always changing and affects each person differently. This information is no substitute for specific professional advice about you personally and we will not be liable to you if you rely on