Why make a will?
If you die without a Will, simply speaking, you cannot control who your estate is distributed to
A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that sets out how you wish your estate (property, belongings, savings, investments and other assets) to be distributed on your death.
It will also cover:
- Who you would like to deal with your affairs once you have passed on
- Your wishes for your funeral
- Who you would like to look after your children should anything happen to you (if applicable)
What happens if you don’t have a Will?
If you die without a Will, you cannot control who your estate is distributed to, as the distribution is governed by a set of rules called ‘intestacy’ which gives priority to certain members of your family, but will not take into account friends or charities.
Without a Will in place, you could cause your family hardship, worry and even costly legal bills if there is any confusion or disagreement after your death.
How old should you be to make a Will?
Many people think that a Will is something you do when you are old, but in truth, you are never too young to start thinking about writing a Will. Regardless of your age, you should have a Will to protect the interests of your loved ones and ensure your assets are left to the people you choose.
In order for a Will to be valid, the person making the Will must be aged 18 or over and have mental capacity (that is the ability to understand they are making a Will and its effects, understand the extent of their property and be aware of potential claims against their estate). The person making the Will must not be ‘unduly influenced’ which is one of the reasons why SFE members insist on seeing their clients alone for at least some of the time.
The process of making a Will
The most important aspect of the process, is the discussions and planning that are had before the Will is drawn up.
The Will itself will encapsulate all of your wishes and help ensure that your affairs are in order, giving you peace of mind.
Your Will will help you to pass on your estate more tax efficiently and help you ring-fence assets for your family and future generations in the event of a change of circumstances such as death, divorce, bankruptcy or entering long term care. Your Will must be in writing and signed by the you (or by someone on your behalf and at your direction) in front of two independent witnesses.
It is very important for all adults to write a Will, especially if:
- You and your partner are not married – UK law doesn’t recognise partners as having the same rights as husbands, wives and civil partners. This means that even after living together for years, your partner may receive nothing if you die without a Will
- You have children – without a Will, there may be uncertainty about your children’s guardians and who will provide for them. You need to be sure that they are in the right hands, and would be looked after and treated in the way that you would have done
- There are several people that depend on you financially – each of these could make a claim on your estate and so you need to be sure that they receive a share of it
Once you have written your Will, it is important to review it and make sure it stays up-to-date with your wishes. Updates are often needed after life changing events such as marriage, divorce and the birth of children or grandchildren.
Don’t leave anything to chance! Contact an SFE member today to help guide you through the process of making a will and protecting your assets.