You need a Will, because without a Will:
- You cannot be sure those you would wish to benefit will actually do so.
- Your spouse/civil partner will not automatically inherit ALL of your estate.
- “Common Law” partners may not receive anything.
- There are no Guardians to look after your children.
- There could be lengthy delays for your beneficiaries and disputes.
Why do I need a will?
People put off making a Will for a variety of reasons, some believing that the people they would wish to inherit will automatically do so, or because they don’t think it is relevant to them at this particular time.
The reality is that you can put off making a Will until it is too late and this poses all sorts of problems for the people left behind. It could mean that some or all of your inheritance either goes to the wrong person or to the state.
A Will affords you peace of mind
Firstly and most importantly is the peace of mind making a Will provides.
Making a Will enables you to plan exactly what will happen to your property and possessions (your estate) adter death. Those you would like to benefit will actually do so, in accordance with your wishes and in doing so, avoids possible disputes between relatives.
Who needs to make a Will?
The answer is everyone. In particular, anyone with dependant relatives, (children under the age of 18, elderly relatives or relatives with a disability who have special needs), anyone who owns a property or has any time of asset which you wish relatives, friends or charities to benefit from.
But won’t everything go to my husband/wife/civil partner/parents/children automatically?
This is a common misconception and dependant on the size of you estate, there are sets of rules which will be applied to determine who inherits and how much if you do not make a Will.
So what happens if I don’t make a Will?
This is known as having died Intestate. There are specific rules of intestacy which set out who will inherit and by how much if you do not leave any Will or an invalid Will. This may not be what you would have wished and in the worst case scenarios where relatives cannot be traced, your assets will be taken by the Crown.
Who can make a Will?
Anyone over the age of 18 who is of sound mind. Exceptions are:
- It is possible for members of the armed forces to make a Will under the age of 18 (advice should be sought in these circumstances).
- Under the provisions of the Mental Health Act 1983, the Court of Protection may approve the making of a Will, or a Codicil to a Will for someone who is mentally incapable of doing so themselves Guidance about how a mentally incapable person can make a Will can be obtained from the Public Guardianship Office.
Is making a Will difficult?
No. You need to make a list of your property and assets and consider who you wish to benefit from your estate, ensuring provision has been made for dependant relatives. you should also consider who you would want to look after your children (guardians) if they were still young.
What makes a Will valid?
- The Will should be in writing. It should appoint someone to carry out the instructions of the Will, an Executor to dispose of possessions/property.
- The Will must be signed by the person making the Will (the Testator), or signed on the Testator’s behalf in his or her presence and by his/her direction. This must be done in the presence of two witnesses who must signed the Will in the presence of the Testator.
Who can be a witness?
Anyone who is:
- not blind.
- capable of understanding the nature and effect of what they are doing.
- aged 18 or over.
A witness should not be:
- a beneficiary in the will.
- married to, or be the civil partner of a beneficiary.
In these circumstances the Will remains a valid and legal document, but the gift to the beneficiary cannot be paid.
Can I state what happens to my body in my Will
Lots of people shy away from discussing their funeral arrangements with family and friends. Making a Will is a good way of letting people know your preferences. For example whether you wish to be cremated and any other specific requests you might have.
Note that your Executors are under no legal obligation to carry out funeral wishes in your Will.
One way to guarantee your wishes are met is to set up a Guaranteed Funeral Plan, you can include details of these arrangements in your Will.
Mitchell Lucke is a member of the Institute of Professional Will Writers. It seeks to protect the public and serve the interests of people who are active professionals in our field.
Telephone: 01252 904822 / 07715 209729