Unfortunately, we are all going to die one day and for those without a will, a financial nightmare awaits for your loved ones.
The purpose of a will is to ensure your affairs are all in order once you die. It is a way of making sure that the people you care about are the ones who receive your assets whether this means property, cash or investments. While there are many reasons to make a will, we quickly look at what happens if you DON’T make one.
The Importance of a Will Writing Service
The Consequences of Not Making A Will
If you were to die suddenly and had no will, who would receive your assets? While you would assume your next of kin such as your spouse, siblings or parents would be able to divide it up among themselves; the reality is often very different.
With no legal way of determining who is entitled to what, petty squabbles can quickly lead to complicated and expensive legal action. Sadly, this kind of in-fighting is not uncommon and is capable of destroying an entire family.
If you die without a will, it is known as intestacy and leads to all manner of issues. In this instance, there are strict rules regarding your estate and the person you want to be protected is now at risk. The rules vary depending on where you live in the UK:
England and Wales
- If you are married or are in a civil partnership and have no kids, your partner receives the entire estate regardless of what it is worth.
- If you have children and are married/in a civil partnership, your partner gets the first £250,000 of the estate; the remaining amount is divided with your partner getting 50% and the rest is divided among the children. If they are under 18 the money is held in trust.
- If you are unmarried and have no children, your surviving partner gets nothing even if they live with you. Your parents get the money and if they are no longer alive, it goes to your nearest surviving relative. If you have no relatives, the Crown inherits your cash.
- If you have children and are unmarried, your estate is shared between them even if you are living with a partner.
Northern Ireland & Scotland
In Scotland, the rules of intestacy depend on the value of your property, the amount of savings you own and the value of your furniture! Things get even more complicated if you have surviving children and it is advisable to contact a professional will writer for advice and assistance.
What Does A Will Do?
The Main Functions of a Will
Typically, you can expect a will to help you in the following ways:
1. It Allows You To Name Your Executors
An executor is someone who takes care of the financial issues associated with your estate once you die. It is best to pick a close friend or relative who you know has the ability to make decisions without being swayed by external pressures. It is also possible to choose a solicitor or bank though this can cost a small fortune.
Your executor will deal with things such as paying off your mortgage and any other debts associated with your estate. Experts state that you should include Internet passwords in your will since most peoples’ financial affairs can be dealt with online in the modern era. Please note that you don’t have to add the writer of your will as the executor so don’t give into pressure if you have an alternative executor in mind.
2. It Helps You Divide Your Estate The Way You See Fit
Your ‘estate’ refers to all your assets which may include cash, property, investments, pets, jewellery, cars etc. Of course, beneficiaries of your will have no legal obligation to accept what you give them so don’t think you can pass the negative equity on your property to someone!
In the event someone refuses to accept what they are given under the terms of the will (also known as disclaiming a bequest), the asset in question is brought back into the estate and dealt with via the residuary clause in the will.
3. It Helps Reduce Inheritance Tax
As we mentioned above, the rules of intestacy could mean the person you want to receive your assets loses out. Another problem is the issue of inheritance tax. According to UK law, those who inherit your estate must pay a 40% inheritance tax on assets worth more than £325,000.
If someone inherits your property which is worth £625,000 for example, they would have to pay £120,000 in inheritance tax! If you make a will, there are a number of legal ways to deal with this issue and it is possible to greatly reduce the tax burden.
Reasons For Writing A Will
Only when you sit down and think about it do you realise the amount of issues that need to be resolved before you die. Here is a list of things to consider:
- Looking After Your Children: If you have children under the age of 18, you need to determine who will look after them when you’re gone as well as ensuring they have enough money to be taken care of.
- Looking After An Unmarried Partner: Unfortunately, the law doesn’t recognise unmarried couples so if you die without making a will, your partner gets nothing. A will can protect them however.
- If You Are Divorced: It may be necessary to update your will so things change if a previous partner gets remarried.
- Funeral Arrangements: Funerals are expensive so you need to plan out the details in advance. Alternatively, in your will you can state that family members must deal with funeral matters once you die.
- Changes in Circumstances: Life changes all the time and a single event could have major repercussions. Your will must be updated when you have kids, get divorced, married or if any other major life event occurs.
- Saving Your Business: If you run a small business, it could fold if you are the sole director and have not made a will. This is because there will be no executor available to arrange payments to staff.
- Pets: Even the family pets need to be taken care of so use your will to do just that!
- Property: If your property is held in a ‘joint tenancy’, the surviving joint tenant immediately receives your half. If your property is held in a ‘tenancy in common’ mortgage, it is possible for you to decide who receives your share. Please note that if you own a property abroad, the inheritance laws there are likely to be different than in the UK.
The Will Writing Services Available to You
Who Writes A Will For Me?
There are three will writing services available to you as an individual;
DIY Will Writing
Although wills are legal documents that can be confusing, some people are unwilling to pay the fees associated with solicitors. Even the most basic will is likely to cost in the region of £50 to £200 with more complicated wills likely to carry a solicitor’s bill of thousands of pounds. Therefore, it is easy to be lured into trying your hand at a DIY will.
You can find will templates either online or in stationery shops and they are quick, easy and most importantly for some, cheap. It is possible to get a Lawpack template for under £10 for example. Before you go down this route it is crucial for you to realise that you don’t receive the same kind of legal protection on the will as you would if you hired a solicitor in the event of a mistake being made.
There are also basic legal requirements; for example, you need to be over 18 and of sound mental capacity and the will must also be witnessed and dated correctly. Additionally, your DIY will must clearly state it replaces all prior versions of the document and these previous wills should be destroyed. It is all too easy to make a mistake given the complexity of the task and even tiny errors can have grave consequences. DIY wills can be contested and may even be rendered invalid if there are any mistakes.
Online Specialist Will Writing Services
These services are often cheaper than a solicitor and are more reliable than DIY wills but you still need to know what you are getting as not all online services of this nature are reputable. It is an easy service to use as you simply have to answer questions about your will online. Once you are done, the website sends a draft will to you via email or post. Then you need to sign it in the presence of witnesses.
Certain online services allow you to speak to a member of staff via telephone and you may even get to speak with a specialist will writer before you begin. It is a service worth considering if you:
- Have a straightforward will and want to save money.
- Want to get things done at your own pace
- Are looking for convenience; many services will send a specialist writer to your home at a time of your choosing.
- Want to have a choice of company.
However, there are some downsides too:
- These services don’t have the same regulations as solicitors so you are not protected if something goes wrong. Always check the service is underwritten by an insurance provider.
- Not every ‘specialist’ is legally qualified. You need to ensure you choose a writer who is a member of a recognised trade body as this means they have been trained in the writing of wills and also in estate planning.
- These services may not be able to store your will securely. Be sure to ask!
Check out our list of qualified professional will writers to narrow down your selection.
A Qualified Solicitor
This is by far the most expensive option which is why so many people are keen to avoid using this service when they have a fairly basic will. A single will drawn up by a solicitor can cost up to £300 while a joint will may cost up to £600. Although it is a costly service, you should go down this route if you:
- Have an estate worth more than £325,000 as Inheritance Tax kicks in at this point. Hiring a solicitor to draw up your will can actually save you money in this instance.
- Have assets overseas such as a holiday home or foreign investments.
- Run a business and expect it to be included in your estate.
- Have a complicated family situation; for example, you may have children with a former partner or else you need to make special arrangements.
Even if the above doesn’t apply, there are plenty of benefits:
- Legal Protection: As qualified solicitors are regulated, you can make complaints to their firm and if the issue has not been resolved, you can make a case with the Legal Ombudsman.
- Peace of Mind: The most common problems with wills include forgetting to have it signed or using the wrong witnesses. With a solicitor, the risk of these issues surfacing is minimized and you have the peace of mind that comes with knowing your loved ones will be taken care of after you die.
- The Complicated Bits Are Easy: The law surrounding inheritances can be extremely complex for the layman but are everyday occurrences for a trained solicitor.
- Safe Storage: Unlike other services, a solicitor will ensure your will is safely stored away.
Where Is My Will Stored?
Once your will has been created by a solicitor, it is stored in a fireproof safe in most cases and you can also get a copy for a small fee. If you don’t use the services of a solicitor, you can store it with the Probate Service for around £20 and you can withdraw it for free. An alternative is to store it at home but this is not advisable.
Writing a will could be one of the most important decisions you ever make and while a solicitor is expensive, you have to consider the consequences if something goes wrong. Remember, the future of your loved ones could be at stake so make sure you have your will written professionally.