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When should you write a will?

Jan 19, 2024 | Uncategorised

Writing a will isn’t a subject that many of us willingly, still less enthusiastically, confront. It’s an unusually heavy administrative task that’s all too easy to put off.

In fact, research has shown that in 2022, 59% of UK adults and 65% of 45- to 54-year-olds hadn’t made a will.

Writing a will, however, is a form of insurance. It gives you control over how your estate will be distributed after your death. Your estate is your money, possessions and property.

If you die without a will, the law kicks in and your estate is split according to “intestacy” rules. Most of us would find this less appealing a prospect than the alternative: a will that sets out your wishes and reflects the important relationships in your life.

From one point of view, the answer to the question “When should you write a will?” is simple: as soon as possible. In reality, however, most people wait until a key milestone in their life before they put pen to paper.

In this article, we look at some of the most common of these milestones. But first, let’s take a closer look at why it’s so important.

Why should you write a will?

The main reason to write a will is to control how your estate is distributed. But it’s not just about you – it can also be about reducing conflict and stress for your next of kin and dependents after your death.

A will can also include detailed requests for your funeral, charitable donations to be made from your estate, what will happen to your digital legacy, and how you want your pets to be cared for.

All in all, it’s a way to manage your estate rather than let intestacy rules make decisions for you and your dependents.

When could you write a will?

In an ideal world, we’d all have our wills written early on in our adult lives. But most of us wait until a key milestone before we start thinking about it.

1. Buying a home

Your estate is monetary, so the purchase of a home will change its value significantly. Buying a home could also lead you to change your named beneficiaries and how much you want to leave them (if, for instance, you want your children to continue living in the home).

2. Marriage, civil separation, divorce and dissolution

Marriages and civil partnerships will tend to mean a change to the named beneficiaries in your will, as will divorce and dissolution.

It’s important to note that marriage and civil partnership will automatically revoke any existing wills.

It’s also worth knowing that if your partner dies and you’re not in a marriage or civil partnership, you won’t automatically inherit anything. For this reason, unmarried couples should consider writing wills.

3. Having children

If your children are under 18, your will should include a “guardian clause” that sets out who will look after your children in the event of your and your partner’s death.

Intestacy rules mean that children automatically get a portion of your estate. But if you want to control how much, you need to lay it out clearly in your will.

4. Starting a business

If you’ve just set up a business, the question of succession is probably not uppermost in your mind. But it is an important one: who will take over the business when you die?

Your will is an essential document in this regard. It gives you control over what will happen to your business’s assets after your death.

As well as covering succession planning, your will can also help you plan for inheritance tax.

5. After the death of a close relative or friend

The death of a close relative or friend is always a stark reminder of life’s fragility and unpredictability. It can sometimes prompt people to think about their own estates and consider writing a will.

How do you write a will?

There are five steps to writing a will.

  1. Get your estate valued. This covers your property, savings, investment and debts.
  2. Divide your estate. This step of the process answers the question, “Who gets what?” An additional consideration is what would happen if one of your beneficiaries died before you.
  3. Name your executor(s). Who will be in charge of executing your will after your death?
  4. Write your will.
  5. Sign and store your will. Your will is an important legal document, so it needs to be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses. It can be stored either at home or with the Probate Service, solicitors or bank.

How can a solicitor help?

Unless your wishes are simple, it pays to get a solicitor on board to help you write your will. Even if you do write your own will, it’s worth getting a solicitor to check it before it’s signed and stored.

An experienced solicitor will make sure your will is clear and free from mistakes. This is important as any errors or ambiguities will take time – and legal costs – to sort out after your death. In some cases, a mistake could even make the document invalid.

It’s especially important to get legal support writing a will if you:

  • Share a property with someone outside of marriage or civil partnership
  • Have a dependent who needs care
  • Own property or a business overseas
  • Don’t live in the UK permanently

Conclusion

Writing a will can seem daunting. But with the right legal help, it’s the best way to ensure that your estate is split according to your wishes.

Are you looking for legal advice with regard to a will? At Milners Law, we have a team of experienced wills and trusts solicitors on hand to give you the guidance you need. Get in touch for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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