Why make a will?
A will is your chance to set out what you want to happen when you die – to your money, your things and even the people who depend on you. If you don’t have a will, the law decides. So it’s well worth writing one, no matter what you think you’ll be leaving your loved ones.
Having a will saves your loved ones a lot of hassle. It will leave them crystal clear about what you want to happen – and how.
Having read even this far should hopefully convince you that you want one. (But to make one, you do have to be over 18.)
What’s good about having a will?
You can make sure your loved ones will benefit
A will makes sense whether you’ve got modest savings and a no-frills house and car, or live on a super-yacht, own thoroughbred race-horses and have a wardrobe of designer clothes. Even if you think you don’t have much to pass on, remember that could change a lot over time. What matters is what’s there when you die. That could be many years off – when you’ve won the lottery or maybe inherited some valuables or money yourself.
You can keep the tax bill down
The rules around inheritance tax are complicated, but broadly speaking tax is due if your estate – the total value of what you leave – is over £325,000. That’s unless you leave everything to your spouse or civil partner or a specific type of organisation, like a charity. If you leave your home to your children or grand-children the amount you can leave without having tax to pay is £450,000.
If you’re married or in a civil partnership, you can ‘share’ the tax-free amount. So if your estate is under the limit when you die, your partner can add the unused amount to their tax-free amount. Making a will lets you take advantage of these rules.
You can do what’s best for people who rely on you
It’s not just about your estate. If you’ve got children or other relatives who you look after, or help out financially, a will lets you control what happens if you’re not around. You can say who you want to take care of your children or other dependants. It’s a good idea to have several options here, in case something happens to the person you choose, or their circumstances change. It might seem logical to choose your parents. But, depending on their age and health, they might not be in the best position to take the responsibility on some years down the line.
A will also lets you say what should happen to your pets, if you’ve got any.
You can say what sort of funeral you’ve got in mind
It’s not legally binding, but it’s a big help to the people you’ve left behind. Just saying whether you want to be buried or cremated gives them one less thing to think about.
What happens if you don’t make a will?
If you die without a will in England or Wales, there are laws about who gets what – and they might not fit your idea of what’s right for your family. It’s called ‘intestacy’. Here are things you might be concerned about:
- If you’re not married nor in a civil partnership your partner won’t be entitled to anything.
- If you’re married, your husband or wife will probably inherit most of your estate – your children might not get anything.
- How much any children or grandchildren get depends on whether you live in England and Wales or Scotland.
- It could mean a tax bill that you could have side-stepped by making a will.
- There are special rules for things you own jointly.
- If you don’t have any living family, a government department takes ownership of everything and decides what to do. Anyone who you’d have wanted to leave something to would have to prove it.
You can find out exactly what would happen by using the calculator on the government’s website. But making a will means you override these rules, and who gets what is your choice.
In a nutshell
Making a will puts you in control. If you don’t have one, someone else – ‘the law’ – decides who gets what and dictates the future for people who rely on you while you’re alive. No-one likes to dwell on the idea of not being around anymore. But once you’ve made a will you can at least feel confident you’ll have done the best for the people (and even pets) you’ve left behind.