The Importance of Making a Will
While the number of people who write Wills has increased over the last ten years, it is estimated that under half of adults in the UK haven’t made one.
The reasons people give for not making one are varied: that it isn’t a priority because they don’t expect to die soon; that they can’t afford to make one; that they want everything to go to a husband, wife or civil partner, which happens by default; or that they don’t have much to pass on.
But making a Will is something that every adult should do. Although no-one wants to plan for an early death, accidents do happen. Nowadays, Wills are inexpensive and easy to make (for free, you can both download templates or make a Will online).
These are the main reasons why you should make a Will:
Appointing guardians for children
Most people rightly believe that the purpose of a Will is to record to whom you want to leave your property, possessions and money.
Your Will also allows you to make other choices, of which the most important for parents is who looks after your young children.
Guardians are the people you nominate to look after your children if both parents die or lose capacity.
If you have children under 18 but no Will, then if you die, who raises your children is decided by a court, and the court might not choose the person you’d prefer. Additionally, going through court can take a long time, leaving your children uncertain as to their future.
Preventing accidental disinheritance
Accidental disinheritance is also known as unintended disinheritance.
For example, you may intend that your spouse inherits your possessions, and then passes them on to your children. By default, without a Will, the law would have that effect.
The problem is that after your death, your spouse may make a Will that leaves everything to other people. Once he or she has inherited your possessions, he or she is the legal owner and can choose what to do with them (even if that differs from what was agreed with you while you were alive).
Particularly, it is not uncommon for a spouse to rewrite a Will, leaving a step-child out of the Will because they’ve grown apart.
Or your spouse might remarry. Marriage invalidates earlier Wills. On his or her death, all your possessions pass to the new husband or wife, who has no obligation to leave them to your children.
Writing a Will prevents accidental disinheritance by making sure that gifts made by you ultimately are inherited by the family members you choose. They also prevent costly, time-consuming and stressful legal battles about what your real intentions were.
Controlling who uses your gifts and when
By writing your wishes in a Will, you can override the default law that sets out who can use a gift and in which circumstances.
As examples, you can prevent a young adult from spending a large inheritance on inappropriate things, you can make sure that a partner of your adult child has no right to claim the inheritance of your child (or of their children) and you can make sure that your spouse lives well for the remainder of his or her life without inheriting money that would be taken to pay care fees.
If you have a Will, you can set out who controls property, possessions and money, what ages people inherit at, and what uses an inheritance can be put to. You may also be able to reduce how much inheritance tax is paid on your estate.
If you don’t make a Will, you have no control.