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 you’re loved ones wishes are carried out.
What is a Will?
A will is a legal document which outlines what will happen to money, possessions and property (also known as an ‘estate’) when a person dies. If a legally recognised will has not been put in place then there’s no guarantee an estate will be distributed in a way the deceased would have wanted, and could even end up in the hands of the government. If you’ve 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.
Why does my loved one need a Will?
Ideally, everyone should have a will, no matter their situation. Your loved one or elderly parents need a will to make sure that their possessions are given to the right recipients if they were to pass away. Here are some reasons why your loved one should take the time to make a will:
- If a will isn’t written, an estate is divided up in a standard way decided by the law.
- A will can make a big impact on how much Inheritance Tax might be payable on the value of assets left behind.
- Having a legal will means it’s much easier for you to organise everything if you’re loved one was to pass away. Losing someone can be stressful enough, and without having a will this process could become more long winded.
- Your loved one can still change their mind. If they make a will and situations change the great thing about a will is that it’s 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 will decide where their estate goes. Sadly, it doesn’t matter what relationship you had with your loved one; if a will isn’t written, there’s no guarantee that you will 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 husband or wife might inherit the majority of the estate and children may not get anything.
- Inheritance tax can be higher without a will 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 or 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 a will, and not all of them have to be expensive. The most common way of writing a will is to use a solicitor or a will writing service, but some people do write their own wills without legal assistance.
Using a Solicitor
Solicitors know their stuff, that’s why they’re solicitors, so if you want to know that your loved ones will is done by the book this is the best option for you. Solicitors are able to make sure the will clearly reflects your loved one’s needs and 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, but this amount could prevent further legal costs if a will isn’t legally binding or has errors in it. If you do choose to use a solicitor, make sure they are properly 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 should be legally binding. But, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea as most wills have a general standard layout which is easily understood and followed. Will writing kits are widely available, but you should only consider letting your loved one write their own will if their wishes are very simple.
Although ‘do it yourself’ wills are the cheapest option, if your loved ones situation is any more complicated than leaving an estate to a spouse or child, consider using a solicitor or a will writing service. When writing a will, be sure to carefully check spelling, 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
If your loved doesn’t feel confident in writing their own will, but won’t spend hundreds of pounds on a solicitor, a will writing service could be the option for them. Although will writers aren’t fully qualified when it comes to the legalities, they can offer advice and support 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 will 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 will need to decide where they want to keep their will, 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 a will is really needed or not. It’s important to encourage a loved one to write a will, so their estate is looked after once they’re gone.
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