- Free Wills Month (March) enables people over the age of 55 to have simple wills drawn up or updated by participating solicitors for free.
- You can draft a will yourself, but you could make mistakes which will invalidate it.
- Having a will means there is a record of what you want to happen to your assets when you die. Dying without a will can cause friction within families regarding disposal of assets and may result in financial distress.
- Many people put off drafting a will because they think it is morbid but it’s the best way of ensuring your assets are dealt with as you wish should the worst happen.
Helen Morrissey, senior pensions and retirement analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown:
“Drafting a Will is something we put in the ‘too difficult’ pile. We think it’s morbid and we don’t want to talk to our loved ones about what needs to happen when we die. However, it’s an important conversation that needs to happen and will bring you peace of mind knowing your affairs are in order and that the people you care about will be looked after when you die.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your affairs are too simple to need a Will. Not having a Will causes confusion and potential financial hardship for those left behind. It can lead to assets not being located or being given to the wrong person and it can take a long time to sort out. Tensions about money can cause rifts in families bringing extra heartache at an already sad time.
Talking to loved ones about who you want – or more importantly don’t want – to give your money to in advance means everyone knows where they stand. For instance, you may be unwilling to give a large sum to someone because you think they will just spend it, or you may have already given them a lot of money when you were alive. It’s important they understand the rationale for your decision making wherever possible.
HL research showed 21% of people said they were expecting a significant inheritance. They may have made plans based on receiving this money which may be destroyed if they then find out that they aren’t.
Having a Will drafted by a solicitor means you are unlikely to fall foul of errors that can invalidate a Will -such as it not being witnessed properly – so it’s well worth seeking one out to help you with this important document.”
Top tips for getting a Will
Don’t put it off
Wills are not just for old people. It makes sense to start thinking about Wills as early as buying your first home as it is an asset that will need to be disposed of. It’s not just about financial assets either – if you have young children you can include details for who should take care of them if you were to die when they are young. It may seem like a big task but it’s worth taking the time to sort it out early and it will bring you real peace of mind.
Have your will witnessed properly
The testator (the person to whom the Will belongs) will need to sign the Will alongside two witnesses. They need to watch each other sign and date the Will and nothing can be attached to the Will as it may invalidate it. You cannot be a witness if you are the spouse or civil partner of the testator or a beneficiary of the Will. Spouses and civil partners of beneficiaries also cannot be witnesses.
Generic terms like “wife”, “spouse”, “partner” or “children” may cause complications if your personal circumstances change. For instance, you might fall out with one of your children and spouses and partners can change. Be specific and use their names to make sure the right people get your assets.
Update it when your personal circumstances change
Our lives are complex, and we may marry, divorce and set up home with other people with whom you have entirely new families. It is vitally important to keep Wills up to date when your personal circumstances change to make sure a new partner or child is not excluded from a Will. While a divorce does not cancel a Will it does mean your ex-spouse can no longer benefit from it unless you expressly state otherwise. You need to check and amend the Will as necessary to make sure you know exactly where all your assets are going. Re-marriage revokes any previous Wills made unless they were made in anticipation of being married.
Tell people what’s in it
This can be a tricky one but if you don’t want family fall outs after your death you should discuss your wishes with your family. You may have already gifted one child a lot of money in your lifetime and so another child may be in line for more in your Will. This is something they will need to know about in advance otherwise there could be a nasty shock in store. Being upfront means the Will is less likely to be contested after your death.