If your loved one doesn’t have a will, then there’s a chance their possessions may not be distributed correctly when they’ve passed away. We all know discussing death is never a pleasant experience, but when it comes to a will it’s a necessary conversation to have to ensure that your loved one’s wishes are carried out. Have you been thinking about organising a will for your loved one but you’re not sure where to start? We’ve outlined some tips and helpful information to assist you in your will planning.
What is a Will?
A will is a legal document which outlines what will happen to money, possessions, and property when a person dies. If a legally recognised will has not been put in place, there’s no guarantee an estate will be distributed in a way the deceased would have wanted. The assets could even end up in the hands of the government.
Why Does My Loved One Need a Will?
Ideally, everyone should have a will, no matter their situation. Your loved ones need one to make sure that their possessions are given to the right recipients. Here are some reasons why your loved one should take the time to make one:
- If one isn’t written, an estate is divided up in a standard way decided by the law.
- A will can make an impact on how much Inheritance Tax is payable on the value of assets left behind.
- Having a legal will means it’s much easier for you to organise everything if your loved one was to pass away. Losing someone can be stressful enough, and this process could become more long-winded.
- Your loved one can still change their mind. If they make one and situations change, it doesn’t matter. A will is not set in stone.
What Happens if My Loved One Doesn’t Have a Will?
If your loved one or elderly parent was to pass away without a will in place, then the law can decide where their estate goes. Sadly, it doesn’t matter what relationship you had with your loved one; there’s no guarantee that you’ll receive what you think you should receive after they have passed. Approximately £8 million worth of money and property went to the government last year due to individuals not having a will, so it’s definitely worth having one in place.
Some basic rules that will be followed if your loved one doesn’t have a will:
- If your loved one isn’t married, but has a partner, the partner isn’t legally entitled to anything. However, if they are married, their spouse could inherit the majority of the estate and children may not get anything.
- Inheritance tax can be higher without one so the amount of inheritance being passed will be less.
- If your loved one has no living blood relatives, their whole estate will belong to the Crown. This means it will go to the government and be divided up how they see fit.
Writing a Will
It doesn’t matter how much money or property your loved one owns, they should still have a will in place. There are a few options when it comes to writing one, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. The most common way is to use a solicitor or a will writing service. However, some people do write their own wills without legal assistance.
Using a Solicitor
Solicitors are able to make sure the will clearly reflects your loved one’s needs. They can assure that it can legally be put in place if your loved one was to pass away.
A solicitor is certainly not the cheapest option and could cost upwards of £150 depending on your loved one’s situation. This amount could prevent further legal costs if the document isn’t legally binding or has errors in it. Make sure your solicitor is licensed by an organisation such as the Solicitors Regulation Authority or Law Society.
As long as a will is written, signed and witnessed by two independent witnesses, in theory, it is legally binding. Kits are widely available. However, you should only consider letting your loved one write their own if their wishes are very simple.
Although ‘do it yourself’ options are the cheapest, if your loved one’s situation is any more complicated than leaving an estate to a spouse or child, consider using a solicitor or a writing service. Be sure to carefully check spelling and be very specific with wishes. Make your executor aware of where the will is kept, sign it, and ensure it is witnessed correctly.
Will Writing Services
This option is ideal for those who aren’t confident writing their own will, nor have the money to pay a solicitor. Although will writers aren’t qualified when it comes to legalities, they can offer advice and draw up a will for you.
The quality of will writing services can vary depending on what you want to pay. For a standard service the usual charge can be upwards of £75. This is cheaper than a solicitor, but doesn’t offer as much legal security, so consider this before choosing a suitable option for you. If your loved one decides to use a writing service, try and choose one which is regulated in some way or belongs to a professional organisation.
Storing your Will
Wills are an excellent way to prepare for the future, but if it cannot be found or no one knows where it is then there might as well not be one. Your loved one needs to decide where they want to keep it, and who they want to know about it. It’s best to keep a will somewhere safe where it can be easily accessed by the executor to the will. Here are some options of where a will can be stored:
- Solicitors – Wills can be stored with a solicitor, or the solicitor who assisted in the writing of the will. Solicitors are regulated so your loved one will know that it’s in safe hands, but if the will wasn’t originally written by the solicitor it may cost extra for this service.
- At home – The law doesn’t state that a will should be kept anywhere in particular. If your loved one feels that they would like to keep it at home then that’s fine, as long as it’s safe and someone knows where it is.
- Executor – It’s important for the executor of the will to know where it is kept and how to get it if they should need it. Your loved one could consider leaving the will with the executor, but this should only be done if the executor is trustworthy.
We cannot stress enough how important a will is in later life, and if your loved one is unsure they can consult with Citizens Advice who will be able to tell them if one is really needed or not. It’s important to encourage a loved one to write one, so their estate is looked after once they’re gone.
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Editor’s Note: This article was updated on 21st April 2022 to reflect current information.