We all know that making a will is important, but many of us put it off. A study commissioned by Funeral Guide and conducted by YouGov showed that almost two thirds (63%) of 45-54 year olds do not have a will. While 66% of over 55s have taken steps to make a will, that still means that a third haven't put important measures in place for when they die.
Here are 10 reasons why you should really start thinking about writing a will – sooner rather than later.
1. Avoid stress for your family
Perhaps the best reason for making a will is to avoid leaving your family with legal issues to battle through after you die. While dealing with bereavement, the last thing anyone wants is to have to figure out various inheritance and intestacy laws.
These laws, which come into effect when someone dies without a will, can be complicated and take a long time to resolve. Writing a will makes the entire process of managing your estate much easier, less expensive and less time-consuming for your family after you die.
2. Appoint executors you trust
Making a will allows you to choose executors to oversee the management of your estate after you pass away. The executors will be responsible for the estate, carrying out tasks such as informing banks and building societies that you have died, sending documents to HM Revenue and Customs, and giving out the inheritance as written in the will.
Being an executor is an important job with a lot of responsibility. If you write a will, you can name someone as an executor who you trust to be organised, honest and trustworthy.
3. Outline the assets of the estate
Making a will allows you to outline all the assets of the estate, such as any property you own and money in different bank accounts. This makes sure that your executor and family will be fully aware of everything that is included in the inheritance, saving time and stress. This is also why you should regularly update your will to include any new assets.
4. Appoint guardians for your children
If you have children under the age of 18, you should consider naming guardians in your will. If you pass away suddenly without a will, it will be the responsibility of the state to decide the best place for your children. Sometimes this means they will be taken into care.
In your will you can name family members or even close friends as guardians for your children. This ensures that your children will be looked after by someone you trust in the event of your death.
5. Look after an unmarried partner
According to research by charity Will Aid, almost three quarters of co-habiting unmarried couples have not made a will. This can mean that the surviving partner will not receive inheritance if their partner dies, even if they have lived together for many years. For obvious reasons, this can be extremely upsetting and disruptive to that partner’s life.
Making a will ensures that your partner receives exactly as much inheritance as you want them to, avoiding complicated intestacy laws.
6. Give a tax-free gift to charity
Making a will allows you to give gifts to charity, either in the form of money or property. This can be a way to leave a meaningful legacy to a cause you care about.
The value of the gift will be either deducted from the value of the estate before inheritance tax is calculated, or, if the gift is more than 10 per cent of your estate’s value, the overall inheritance tax rate will be reduced.
7. Control who inherits from your estate
Making a will gives you control over who inherits what from your estate after you die. This can be useful if you want someone to receive a particular amount, or if you want to divide the estate in an unusual way.
For example, if you have divorced and re-married, you may want to make special provisions for your ex, or specify that only your children will inherit. Ultimately, a will helps give you control over what you want to happen and you can discuss legal details with a solicitor to ensure every possibility is covered.
8. Give inheritance gifts
Wills can also be a useful way to give gifts after you die. You may choose to leave a small amount of money to a friend or distant relative. People often specify items of furniture, jewellery, vehicles and family heirlooms to be given to certain family members. This can all be included in the will.
9. Save money
According to the Money Advice Service, the cost of a will is around £100-£200, sometimes more for couples. Although this might sound like a lot of money now, it is nothing compared to the solicitors’ fees required if you die without a will and there are disagreements over the inheritance.
Unfortunately, family disputes are common when settling an estate, and legal conflicts can drag on for months and years. Leaving a will greatly reduces the opportunity for disagreements and resulting expense, as all your wishes are legally recognised.
10. Achieve peace of mind
Apart from all the legal and financial benefits of making a will, knowing that your affairs are in order will give you peace of mind. It can be reassuring to know that everything has been arranged and your wishes will be carried out in a way that causes the least stress for your loved ones.