Whatever your age or circumstances you probably need a Will to protect your loved ones and ensure that your estate goes where you want it to go
12 Good reasons to make a will
A Will is a legal document you create that clearly sets out who will inherit your estate and what you would like to happen after you die. It includes your funeral wishes, how you would like your possessions to be distributed and who you would like to deal with your Estate. If you have children and you have parental responsibility, you can also appoint guardians of your children. Your Will is a legally-binding document - but if you don't prepare it properly, it may not be valid. It is estimated that over 60% of people haven’t made a Will. If you die without one, your estate will be distributed according to strict rules, meaning the people you care about may lose out.
Here, is a quick look at some of the top reasons for making a will, and how dying without one could affect your loved ones.
1. Protect your partner if you're unmarried
Cohabiting partners (sometimes wrongly called 'common-law' partners) who were neither married nor in a civil partnership can’t inherit under the rules of intestacy. Writing a will ensures your partner will receive something from your estate, especially important if your partner will be bringing up your children.
2. Marriage revokes any existing Will
In England and Wales, If you make a Will and then later get married, that Will is revoked by your marriage (unless a specific contemplation of marriage clause was included). This means, unless you make a new Will, you would die Intestate. When a person dies without leaving a valid Will (intestate), their property (the estate) must be shared out according to strict intestacy rules. These rules decide who is entitled to benefit from your estate and may preclude people you actually wanted to benefit from your estate, for example if you have a new spouse your children from a previous relationship may receive nothing.
It makes sense to regularly review your Will particularly before and after marriage or after separation or divorce.
3. Divorce and separation
Until a divorce is finalised, married and civil partners can still inherit under the rules of intestacy.
4. Make a Will to name your children's guardian
When writing a Will, you don't just decide how your estate is divided up. If you have parental responsibility, under Section 5 Children Act 1989, you can appoint Guardians for your children. If you do not do this, the decision may well be made by the family courts, this could mean it might be a person you wouldn't agree with. You may have named friends or family members to be your children's godparents, but it is important to remember that this isn't legally-binding.
5. Ensure your children are provided for financially
As well as saying who will raise your children, you can make plans to provide for their future financially. This might include putting aside money for their education, making sure they receive a set amount each year for clothing or hobbies, or establishing a nest egg to buy a home. You may wish to consider setting up a trust to provide for your children, as this gives you an element of control over when your children receive the money, and what it gets used for.
6. Provide for your dependents, including step-children
Your step-children may be a big part of your life, or even be your only children, but the law states that only spouses or blood relatives, or adopted children can automatically inherit if there is no will. If you want to provide for your step-children, you'll need to write a will that includes them. The same goes for foster children, or any other dependents who may rely on you for support.
7. Safeguard your family home
If the family home is in your name, your unmarried partner and step-children aren't automatically in line to inherit it if you die without a will - meaning they may lose their home.
If you own your home with the person you live with, it is important to understand there are two different ways owning a home. These are beneficial joint tenancies and tenancies in common. If the owners are beneficial joint tenants when the first joint owner dies, the surviving partner will automatically become the sole owner, the deceased's share does not pass by intestacy, if there is no Will, or through their Will if you have one. Alternatively, If the partners or spouses are tenants in common, the property is owned in shares and it will pass by intestacy, if you do not have a Will, or if you leave a valid Will your share of the property will pass by the terms of your Will. It is important to understand this difference as it can have a great bearing on what will happen after you die and who might receive a benefit from your estate. For example, you could elect to create a Life Interest Trust Will which may help secure an inheritance for your children.
8. Head off family disputes
Dividing up an estate can sadly sometimes lead to squabbles and arguments among your survivors if there is no Will or your wishes aren't made clear. Contested Wills can be damaging to relationships among your family, and can also be expensive if decisions about your estate are legally contested. A well-prepared will can help avoid these arguments, and avoid making your passing even more stressful for your survivors.
9. Decide who you would like to settle your affairs
Within your will, you can name an executor, or multiple executors who will be in charge of carrying out your final wishes. Choosing your executor in advance allows you to select the best person for the task. It also gives the executor prior warning so they can prepare themselves. If you made a Will previously, it is a good idea to check that those named executors are still able to act.
10. Say who you want to look after your pets
If you have dogs, cats, or any other pets, they may also need to be looked after if you pass away and put some money aside to feed them and look after their health.
11. Protect your digital assets
Nowadays, your assets won't just include money in the bank and physical goods. Digital accounts and online purchases, such as music, photographs, or websites, also form part of your possessions and can disappear into the void if you don't account for them in your will. Things like emails and social media accounts also form part of your legacy - do you want the information destroyed, protected, and do you need to make passwords available to your executor?
12. Support a charity
If you support a charity, you may wish to leave something for it when you pass away. This can also be a fallback position if those you have already provided for in your Will die before you. If you fail to plan for this it may mean that if a gift in your Will fails and is treated as partially or wholly intestate and this could mean that others receive gifts you did not intend.