MB&G Wills Specialist, Laura King discusses the importance of having a Will and lists her top five reasons why you need to make one.
Let’s face it, none of us particularly enjoys talking about death. It’s a subject many people like to avoid, let alone plan for. And with some figures putting the number of people in the UK without a Will at 60%, it’s time to take your head out of the sand and talk about why having a Will is vital.
Giving you control and peace of mind, making a Will is a way of providing for and protecting your family after your death. Sometimes known as your Last Will and Testament, it is a legally-binding document however, if not prepared properly, it may be invalid. Plus, without one, your estate will be distributed according to strict rules, meaning the people you care about may lose out.
Making provision for your family
Your Will allows you to care for your family once you are gone. Having a Will that clearly states your wishes can make things much easier for your family. If you have children under the age of 18, your Will also ensures they are protected in all circumstances. Parents can specify a reliable guardian to take care of their children if they die unexpectedly. If a guardian hasn’t been specified in a Will, and both parents die, then it may be left to the family courts to decide who takes care of your children. This may result in people you wouldn’t have chosen being appointed to bring up your children. Recording your wishes in a Will is undeniably a vital course of action for any caring parent.
Wills can also create trusts for young children to ensure financial security for them later in life. Importantly, having a Will can also help to reduce any chance of conflict between family members. It’s a sad fact of life that chaos and fallouts can often follow the death of a relative.
You choose who administers your estate
When making a Will, you appoint executors – people named in your Will to carry out your wishes. Choosing your executor in advance allows you to select the best person for the task. They will ensure your estate and assets are distributed in accordance with your final wishes.
Executors are responsible for collecting together all the assets of the estate, dealing with all the paperwork and paying all the debts, taxes, funeral and administration costs out of money in the estate. They also pay out the gifts and transfer any property to beneficiaries.
Who benefits and how
By making a Will, you make sure all items and objects are left to the individuals of your choice. Your Will specifies what you want to leave to your family, charities, friends or other organisations; these people are known as beneficiaries.
However, if you die without a Will, you won’t have a say on who your estate goes to. Most people are not familiar with what happens upon death when there is no active Will. So if you were to die intestate (without leaving a Will) – the law decides how your estate is passed on. If you are married, your spouse may have to share your estate with your children (and you may not have intended them to benefit straight away).
And, if you aren’t married and die intestate, don’t assume your partner is legally entitled to your estate. Current intestacy rules don’t recognise unmarried couples or ‘cohabitees’. So if you live with your partner and die without having made a Will, they will not automatically inherit any of your estate. The best way to protect them and ensure they receive a fair share of your estate, is to state your wishes in your Will.
Dealing with your wishes
Clearly, it’s very important to think about what will happen to your family and loved ones after you die but what about you? Stating important aspects of what you want to happen to your body once you die is the only way those left behind will know what to do. Recording your funeral wishes can mean there’s less for your relatives to worry about, plus you should receive the send-off you wanted.
Things to consider are: do you want to be buried or cremated? Where do you want that to happen? Do you want your body or organs to be donated? While burial and cremation wishes in a Will are merely wishes, making a note of this will undoubtedly help family members by not having to make those decisions for you.
Not set in stone
Once you’ve written it, don’t forget to keep your Will updated as the circumstances in your life change, which could be though marriage, divorce, moving home, having a baby or if an executor dies. It is important to note that your Will is automatically revoked on marriage.
Making amendments to your Will doesn’t necessarily mean starting from scratch. Often, simple amendments can be made by just writing a new one, along similar terms, ensuring any previous Will is revoked properly.
Making a Will is most definitely a responsibility you owe to both your family and yourself.
If you would like to discuss making or updating a Will, please call 01724 868611 to contact our experienced Wills, Probate and Estates teams in our Scunthorpe, Brigg, Barton or Epworth offices
MB&G is accredited with the Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme and is committed to high standards of expertise and client service.