Is a will really worth it?

09 December 2012

 

Why you need a will, what happens if you die without one and how to write it.

No one likes to think about what will happen after they pass away and planning what will happen to your assets can seem long and complicated, so it’s hardly surprising that 58 per cent of people in the UK don’t have a will in place.

Yet a valid will is one of the most important arrangements you can make during your lifetime.

Experts from professional advice website, Unbiased.co.uk and Octopus Investments, explain how and why you should get a will.

Failing to leave behind a will when you die, leaving you intestate, can put a lot of stress and strain on people who are not only grieving but possibly also face an uncertain financial future.

Legal proceedings to make a claim on an estate can be costly and unpleasant for the family and other beneficiaries.

Dealing with the estate of a person who dies intestate can take months or even years.

What happens if I don’t have a will?

Without a will your assets, such as your house, your bank accounts, savings and investments, even your personal possessions such as jewellery, your car and anything else of value, could be distributed under the intestacy rules rather than following your wishes.

What is intestacy?

Intestacy rules (which apply if you die without a will) pass your assets on, dividing them up in a specific order. The rules are slightly different in Scotland than in England and Wales but overall they are intended to make sure the bulk of any estate passes to any surviving spouse/civil partner and children. It is not a foregone conclusion that your loved ones will get what you’d like them to have and with family circumstances ever more complex these days it really is worth getting a will sorted out.

Why is it important to make a will?

Getting married, entering a civil partnership, or having children should all be trigger points for getting your will written.

If you aren’t married but setting up home with your partner, it’s probably even more important as your unmarried partner won’t get any of your estate without a will that leaves it to them. Your will also names the people you want to act as ‘executors’, to carry out the wishes stated in your will.

The executors will go through the process of probate, and eventually will be granted permission to distribute your assets to your beneficiaries.

If you and your partner (unmarried, spouse or civil) have children, you really need to think about who will look after your children should something happen to both of you – who will be their guardians and what will happen to your estate until the children reach 18?

Not having a will could mean that you are not in control of who looks after your children.

If you are not married and have no children your estate could pass to your brothers or sisters or even your parents, which could make your parents’ estate larger than they had planned for and so incur unexpected inheritance tax on their death.

If no immediate or more distant relatives are traced, your estate could even end up being passed to the government.

How to get a will

Research from unbiased.co.uk and Octopus Investments shows that more than one in seven (14 per cent) UK adults said that they have not written a will yet because they are worried about the costs involved; so what are the options?

Doing it yourself

There’s nothing to stop a person from writing their own will or using a DIY kit but the risk of using a DIY service could mean problems for those left behind. Drawing up a legally binding document, even for what appears to be the most straight forward estate, takes a level of knowledge and skill that most of us do not have, and it’s all too easy to make a mistake, making your will ambiguous at best or completely invalid at worst.

There are also ‘online will-writers’; their services may be cheaper but they are also unregulated and therefore there is no guarantee that the advice given is accurate or competent, or even that the will is legally binding.

Using a bank

Most banks also offer will writing and execution services to their customers. However, some banks may insist on appointing themselves as one of the executors of the will itself and there may be additional charges for this, so check the terms and conditions.

Using a professional

Solicitors and professional financial advisers who specialise in will-writing are the people best qualified to write and administer a will.

Not only are they qualified and regulated but they will meet with you face-to-face and talk through exactly what it is that you want your will to achieve, ensuring you make use of the transferable nil-rate band and that all assets are in order and will be left to a husband, wife or civil partner after you die. You can appoint your solicitor as executor but remember that they will charge for their services.

What are the costs involved?

It doesn’t need to be expensive; there are lots of price/service options, so cost should not be a barrier.

To set up a basic will with a professional adviser costs in the region of £150, depending on how complicated your requirements are; trusts may need to be set up or tax issues considered more fully.

In those instances, it might be more appropriate to look at an hourly rate but it’s worth shopping around to compare costs and services.

Looking for a professional?

What to consider when finding a solicitor or professional adviser to help you get the best advice:

  1. What are the costs? Different firms will have different charging structures. If you need inheritance tax planning this is likely to cost more but will obviously benefit you in the long term.
  2. What qualifications do they hold? Use a firm that is a member of a professional body (e.g. The Law Society or Society of Will Writers), carries full professional indemnity insurance, and also carries out Continuing Professional Development
  3. In which areas do they specialise? Make sure they are specialised in will writing and if you are looking for inheritance tax planning advice that they can advise or put you in touch with a professional financial adviser, or vice versa.
  4. Have you spoken to more than one professional adviser / solicitor? Make sure you shop around and ask questions so that you completely understand the service they will provide and what you are paying for.
  5. What ongoing services do they offer? Will they alert you to tax changes or changes to the law? What if you need to revise your will due to personal changes?

Source: The Daily Mail

 

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