Do you have a will? If not, why the hell not?
I know what you are thinking: “A blog about estate planning? Seriously? How dull!”
But stick with me here: this post can save you hundreds of pounds.
Many of us don’t want to think about making a will because we don’t like to admit that we will all eventually die. While others don’t get a will written because they are simply worried about how much it will cost.
But a will is something you pretty much must get at some point, but if you act NOW, you can get a solicitor to sort it all out for you and it all you have to do is make a donation you can afford.
Who needs a will anyway?
It may seem obvious, but anyone with assets such as a house, savings or even a workplace life insurance scheme should have a will.
But the sad fact is that about half the people who die each year do so without one.
As a result, they “die intestate” and the state gets to decide who will inherit their hard-earned possessions and a huge chunk will be scooped up by the taxman.
If you are in a relationship, but are not married, you’ll need one too as the law doesn’t recognise what many of us consider “common law marriage” – so you could wind up with nothing if your partner died.
While those who have been divorced may want to stipulate what happens to your assets if an ex-partner remarries.
Also, if you have a small business and you die without naming executors in your will, nobody can authorise payments (or wages) so your business could collapse – and your staff could go unpaid.
In other words – pretty much everyone needs a will – and that includes you.
Why parents need a Will
But it’s not all about money. A will is also essential for parents with children or step-children under 18 as it is required to name legal guardians.
If you don’t choose a guardian, the local authorities will be charged with deciding – and while they often prefer immediate family, this is not automatic.
Bear in mind that choosing a godparent is not the same as nominating a guardian, as godparents have no legal rights.
If you want the godparents to look after your children if you die, you have to state this in your Will.
Also, if you have step-children, keep in mind that they will not automatically inherit from your estate unless you specifically say so in your will – so if that’s what you’d like, get it in writing.
If you die when your kids are under the age of 18, their inheritance will need to be held in trust.
To manage that trust, you need to nominate a trusted person, known as the trustee.
Consider at what age you want your children to receive full control of their inheritance.
Unless the will says otherwise, they will automatically receive access to their assets at 18 in most cases, although the default in Scotland is for the child to inherit at 17.
Before this age, your children can still benefit from their inheritance, but will not be able to manage it personally.
When do I need to make a Will?
The simple answer is NOW.
Making a Will is both important and straightforward – so don’t panic. Chances are that you don’t have an estate like Jeff Bezos, so it will be easy peasey to sort it out.
You need to remember that when your circumstances change, your Will may become out of date. For instance, in England and Wales, if you marry or re-marry your old Will is automatically invalidated – so make sure that your Will is up-to-date.
How you can get a proper Will drawn up by a solicitor for a fraction of the cost
Some people who don’t like the idea of shelling out hundreds of pounds to a solicitor may be tempted to go the do-it-yourself route – but this isn’t an episode of Suits, so it is best to resist.
While the Wowcher and Groupon offers that land in your inbox may seem like a cost-effective option at less than £20 a pop, it’s very easy to make technical mistakes that could invalidate your will or lead to costly and upsetting disputes in the years ahead.
If using this option, you should really have a solicitor check it through first, so you might as well have them sort the whole thing and call it a day.
How to get a cheap Will
The good news is that every November, thousands of solicitors across the UK lend their will writing services in exchange for a donation to charity, waiving their usual fee through the Will Aid campaign.
When I was married, we did our mirror wills this way, and it saved us hundreds of pounds.
What’s more, it provided us the peace of mind that our daughter would be looked after should the worst happen to us.
Bear in mind that your Will needs to be updated when your circumstances change.
So if you get married, buy a property, have children, or if you are like me and are separated or divorced you need to have another go at it.
Luckily, you don’t have to dread the thought of taking on more costly life admin, you can have the changes done to an existing Will with Will Aid too – simply explain to your chosen solicitor the changes you need to make when you set up your appointment. Your solicitor will then advise you how to proceed.
How much will a Will Aid campaign will cost?
With the Will Aid campaign, you will get a free appointment with a solicitor, but will be asked to make a suggested donation of £100 for a single Will or £180 if you and your partner or spouse opt for mirror Wills.
That is a huge discount on the usual fees of up to £200 for a single Will or £300 for mirror Wills.
Bear in mind that the key word, is “suggested”, so if this is still out of your price range, please don’t let it put you off getting a will written up, you can adjust your donation to what you can afford.
To find a participating solicitor in your area, go the the online postcode search or call 0300 0309 558. Then you need to contact them directly to make an appointment for November.
But act fast! Appointments do get filled quickly, so if you leave it a few weeks, you might be too late.