Don’t have a will? Find out why you need to write one today

Don’t have a will yet? Or wrote one years ago and need to update it? Find out why it’s important you have a current will, and how to get started writing yours today. 

It’s probably not anyone’s favourite subject, and it’s often one we put off dealing with. Indeed, according to research two thirds of parents of children under 18 don’t have a will.

But writing your will isn’t just important – if you have children it’s virtually essential. And if you or your partner don’t yet have one, now is your chance to start the process.

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Why you need a will

Just because you may not have considerable assets to leave, or trust that you or your partner will do the right thing if either of you die, doesn’t mean you don’t need to write your will.

If you die without a will, there are rules which dictate how your assets should pass – and these may not be what either of you would have wished for. For example:

  • If you are in a long term relationship but not married, neither of you has an automatic right to each other’s estate. This can leave you very exposed.
  • If you are married and have children, your spouse gets the first £250,000 and half the balance. The remainder goes to your children. So for example, if your house is worth £1 million the surviving spouse may not be able to stay in it.

What happens to your children?

And it’s not just money and property you need to consider. If you have children or step children, you will need to think carefully about how to look after them all, and how to balance looking after your children against the needs of your spouse.

It really helps to talk this through with an experienced solicitor. This is a classic situation where no will, or a poorly thought out will can cause problems after your death.

So make sure you think carefully about what you want to happen to your children if you, or both of you, die and ensure you appoint guardians in your will.

How to save money on inheritance tax

In some circumstances you can use your will to make inheritance tax savings. Inheritance tax is charged at 40% of the value of your estate above the nil rate band.

All individuals have a nil rate band of £325,000, but this will increase to a maximum of £500,000 for people dying after 2020 who own a property and leave it to “issue” (broadly children, grandchildren and step children).

Even though the nil rate band is increasing for some, the inheritance tax burden on an estate will often be hefty. A solicitor will help you to make use of any available inheritance tax reliefs, such as agricultural property relief and business property relief.

Make sure you keep your will up to date

Once you’ve made your will you may still need to amend it if your circumstances change. For example if you have separated and your ex-partner now lives with someone else, you’ll probably want to change it.

Equally, if you marry or enter into a registered civil partnership, any previous will you have made is automatically revoked, and you will need to make a new one.

How to write your will

If you are in any doubt about whether you should make a will, consult a specialist solicitor. Technically your will doesn’t have to be drawn up or witnessed by a solicitor. You can write your own. However, you should only consider doing this if your will is going to be straightforward.

Your will is one of the most important documents you will ever sign, so it’s important to get it right. You may not be around to deal with the consequences of any mistakes, but your loved ones will, and they won’t thank you for leaving them with a mess to clear up.

So, if you don’t yet have a will, or your will is out of date, why not start making one today and put your mind at rest?

Want more legal and financial tips? Read 10 financial mistakes mums can make (and how to avoid them)

Judith Derbyshire is a solicitor at the Somerset-based firm Purely Probate. You can call her on 01458 850146 if you wish you to discuss making your will. 

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash