The when, why and how of making a will

Most people know what a will is and that at some point they’ll need to make one. But it’s one of those things people often put off, believing it’s something they can deal with later on in life.

There are several stages during a person’s lifetime when a will should seriously be considered and these are especially important if you have dependants, own a property or have other valuable assets.

Below we examine these stages and look at why getting a will is so important.

Marriage and civil partnerships

Creating a will is perhaps the last thing on most newlyweds’ minds.

But many people aren’t aware  that when you get married any will already in place usually becomes invalid.

If you die after your marriage or civil partnership without making a new will, you’ll be deemed to have died intestate.

This means your estate (belongings, property and money) is distributed according to the pre-defined laws of intestacy, regardless of you or your spouse’s wishes. 

Getting a will is easy to do and lets you and your spouse specify exactly how you’d like your assets to be distributed among your family and/or friends.

Living together

Unlike married couples or civil partners, unmarried couples are not automatically entitled to inherit one another’s estates should one partner die without a will.

This applies even if the couple have been living with each other for years or have children together.

It’s therefore essential unmarried couples in this situation make a will to specify exactly what they’d like their partner to inherit if they die.

Without a will in place, the deceased’s partner wouldn’t be entitled to anything and his or her estate would be distributed by the rules of intestacy to other family members.

It’s advisable for each partner to make a will in order to ensure they’re protected should one die before the other.

Having children

Perhaps the most important reason to make a will when you‘re a parent, is that it allows you to nominate someone you know and trust to look after your child or children should you and your partner die.

Known as a guardian, this person will be legally responsible for taking care of your children.

Without a legal guardian it will be down to the courts and the state to decide who and how your children are cared for.

If you have children from a previous relationship, making a will lets you specify exactly what you’d like each one of your children to inherit.

You may also avoid your children inheriting too young by specifying the age at which they can receive a gift, having it held in trust until then.

Buying a property

For most people, their home is the highest value item in their estate and what happens to it when they die needs careful consideration.

Buying a property will also impact Inheritance Tax status by bringing the value of your estate closer to (or maybe exceeding) the threshold at which Inheritance Tax becomes payable .

The most important factor in determining what happens to the house when you die is how it’s owned.

The options are: sole tenant, joint tenants or tenants in common.

If your house is owned as a joint tenancy, it will automatically pass to the surviving tenant if the other dies.

However, in the case of sole tenants and tenants in common, a will should specify exactly what should happen to the property when the owner or owners die.

Getting divorced or dissolving a civil partnership

If you made a will while you were married, it’s likely this leaves your estate to your spouse should you die before him or her.

You might also have named your spouse as an executor – the person responsible for ensuring your wishes are carried out.

This could result in the court needing to appoint further executors, and gifts being distributed according to intestacy laws, unless you rewrite it.

Having an updated or new will in place after you divorce is therefore vital to ensure your estate is distributed exactly how you wish and to avoid confusion and disputes within your family.

Retirement

Retirement is a good point to take stock and review your will as it’s likely that since you made it your financial situation will have changed, as well as the lives of your family members.

If you only need to make minor changes, you can use a document known as a codicil to specify them, but for more substantial changes it’s advisable to make a completely new will.

There are many important reasons to make a will and to ensure it’s regularly updated to reflect any changes in your circumstances.

Putting it off can end up causing unnecessary upset and hardship to family members left behind.

So, what’s stopping you?

Creating a will needn’t cost you a fortune.

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You’ll be able to easily create a will, have it reviewed by our solicitors at no extra cost and get the peace of mind that comes from knowing your family’s interests will be protected when you die.

There are numerous other benefits when you add Legal Services to your policy and you can find out more by watching our video here

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