Time to make a will

The COVID-19 pandemic has made more people think about just how crucial it is to make a will

It’s estimated that more than half of British adults have not made a will.  Everyone should have one, but it’s even more important if you have children; you own property or have savings, investments, insurance policies; or you own a business. Your will lets you decide what happens to your money, property and possessions after your death. 

Since the outbreak of coronavirus, the number of people seeking to write new wills has risen by over 30%, according to The Law Society. Recent events have made more people think about how crucial it is to make a will and ensure it’s kept up to date. 

Make sure your wishes are clear

Making a will and keeping it up to date is the only way you can ensure that when you die, your wishes are clear. If you die with no valid will in England or Wales, the law will decide who gets what. If you have no living family members, all your property and possessions will go to the Crown.

Should you die without a will, your estate will generally be divided according to the rules of intestacy, which may not reflect your wishes. The state directs who inherits, so your loved ones, relatives, friends and favourite charities may get nothing.

Cohabitants

It’s particularly important to make a will if you are not married or are not in a registered civil partnership (a legal arrangement that gives same-sex partners the same status as a married couple). This is because the law does not automatically recognise cohabitants (partners who live together) as having the same rights as husbands, wives and registered civil partners. As a result, even if you've lived together for many years, your cohabitant may be left with nothing if you haven’t made a will.

A will is also vital if you have children or dependents who may not be able to care for themselves. Without a will, there could be uncertainty about who will look after or provide for them if you die. 

Peace of mind 

No one likes to think about it, but death is the one certainty that we all face. Planning ahead can give you the peace of mind that your loved ones can cope financially without you, and at a difficult time it helps remove the stress that monetary worries can bring. Planning your finances in advance should help you to ensure that when you die, everything you own goes where you want it to. Making a will is the first step in ensuring that your estate is shared out exactly as you want it to be.

If you leave everything to your spouse or registered civil partner, there will be no inheritance tax to pay, because they are classed as an exempt beneficiary. Or you may decide to use your tax-free allowance to give some of your estate to someone else or to a family trust. Scottish law on inheritance differs from English law.

Passing on your estate

Executors are the people you name in your will to carry out your wishes after you die. They will be responsible for all aspects of winding up your affairs after you’ve passed away, such as arranging your funeral, notifying people and organisations that you’ve died, collating information about your assets and liabilities, dealing with any tax bills, paying debts, and distributing your estate to your chosen beneficiaries.

You can make all types of different gifts in your will – these are called ‘legacies’. For example, you may want to give an item of sentimental value to a particular person, or perhaps a fixed cash amount to a friend or favourite charity. You can then decide who you would like to receive the rest of your estate and in what proportions. 

Review your will 

It is advisable to review your will every five years and after any major change in your life, such as getting separated, married or divorced, having a child, or moving house. Any change must be by Codicil (an addition, amendment or supplement to a will) or by making a new will. 

If you make a will, you can also make sure you don’t pay more inheritance tax than you legally need to. It’s an essential part of your financial planning. To find out more about inheritance tax planning you can arrange to speak to one of our independent financial advisers.

Will writing is not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.