Why should you make a Will?

This Make a Will Month we're answering your most asked questions about Wills.

This Make a Will Month, you can write or update your Will for free. Find out more and book your appointment.

Why do I need a Will and what happens if I didn’t have one? If you die without writing a Will, anything you own or have (this includes for example property, your bank account, any pets, and all your other possessions) will be shared out according to a legal default, rather than your own expressed wishes.

It doesn’t matter how close you are to certain relatives either. If no Will is made before you die, your assets and money will be allocated according to the same legal rules as anyone else, even the £20 you keep in your draw for emergencies!

But I am married, do I still need a Will? 
Yes, you need a Will to express your wishes which may mean you would like to leave your assets to someone other than your husband, wife, or civil partner.

The intestacy rules (dying without a Will is known legally as dying ‘intestate’, a word with Latin origins which essentially means ‘without a testament) are set out in the Inheritance and Trustees’ Power Act (2014), which has different implications depending on your circumstances.

In short, your husband, wife or civil partner keeps all the assets (including property), up to a value of £270,000, and all the personal possessions, regardless of their value. The remainder of your estate will be shared as follows:

• Your husband, wife or civil partner gets an ‘absolute interest’ (full rights) over half the remainder.

• The other half is then divided equally between the surviving children.

• If a son or daughter (or other child where the deceased had a parental role) has already died, their children will inherit in their place.

Here are some other permutations:

• If you’re married or in a civil partnership but have no children, your surviving spouse will receive everything in the estate.

Who makes sure the wishes in your Will are followed? When you make a Will you choose a primary and secondary executor, in the case that your chosen executor lacks capacity or declines the position. This is usually a trusted person and mostly they are not a beneficiary of the Will. Their role is to ensure your wishes are carried out as per your request and they co-ordinate the process with a legal body. If you feel more comfortable you can appoint an impartial solicitor as your executor.

How long does making a Will take? The process of making a Will involves an initial meeting to discuss the wishes of the person making the Will (they are known as the Testator). Following this meeting, a draft Will is created for approval by the Testator. Once this is approved, the final Will is created, and an appointment made to have the Will signed and witnessed – this is the process complete. The total time that this takes can be a couple of days or a week depending on the Testator’s wishes.

Solicitors will draw up a Will very fast where needs be, depending on circumstances.

How much does a Will cost? Depending on the estate and any complexities (property aboard etc), a Will can cost between £100 for a single Will and up to £400 for a Will including a Trust.

I don’t have any money or a property to leave, do I still need a will? Yes. Having a Will isn’t just to do with your finances, you can include things such having your funeral wishes known, saying who you would like to look after your pets and leaving a cherished piece of jewelry to a friend. Having a Will is ensuring that all your wishes for all your possessions are adhered to after you die. Also, a Will isn’t about what you have now, in years to come your estate could have grown.

I have no idea what I’d put in a will, can someone help me? Yes, a will writer will spend time with you discussing your wishes to ensure that the Will is an accurate record of your wishes. Go along to your initial appointment with a rough idea of possessions and how you would like for them to be looked after.

I have an existing Will, but I can’t remember what’s in it or how to find out. What do I do? If you cannot find an existing Will, after making enquiries it would be possible to make a new Will, as a new Will revokes any previous Wills. If an old Will turns up after a new one is made, that Will that is classed as outdated and no longer legal.

Why do charities need gifts left in Wills? Gifts in wills provide a vital source of income for charities. At Herriot Hospice Homecare, 1 in 3 of our patients is cared for thanks to a gift left in a will. These gifts ensure that hospice care will still be here in years to come providing expert care and to support to all who need to access our services.

Will my family or friends miss out if I leave a gift to charity? No, prioritising family and friends is paramount. But after looking after them, considering leaving a gift to charity in your Will could really help causes you care about.

Do I need to pay tax on gifts left to charity? No, charity gifts are tax exempt.

How can I reduce inheritance tax by leaving a gift to charity? If your estate is above the Inheritance Tax threshold, it is possible to reduce the rate of Inheritance Tax payable by leaving a gift of at least 10% of the estate value to charities. The rate of Inheritance Tax would be reduced from 40% to 36% on the value of the estate above the threshold.

Do I need to tell the charity that I’m leaving them a gift in my will? No, you do not need to tell the charity. However, by letting them know they can show their support and express their gratitude to you.

Can I only leave money to a charity? You can leave whatever gift(s) you wish to a charity.

Can I decide how my gift is used by the charity? If there is a particular service you wish to support within your chosen charity you can stipulate this in your Will however, it is worth noting that upon receipt of the gift, the charity may no longer run said service.

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