Your Will is the document that lets you decide what will happens to your money, property and possessions after your death and ensures that you don’t pay unnecessary taxes to the government. It should also contain instructions for your funeral arrangements.
If you die without making a Will, the State directs who will inherit your estate, so your friends, favourite charities and relatives may get nothing.
If you are living with someone but are not married and not in a registered civil partnership, even if you've lived together for many years, your partner may be left with nothing if you have not made a Will.
A Will is also important if you have children or dependants who may not be able to care for themselves. Without a Will there could be uncertainty about who will look after or provide for them if you die.
If you die with no living close relatives, your whole estate will belong to the Crown under a law called bona vacantia. £8 million in money and property went to the government last year because people didn't leave a will.
You can prepare your own Will, or you can instruct a solicitor to make one for you. It's usually best to get advice from a solicitor except in very simple cases.
An overview of Making a Will is available from moneyadviceservice.org.uk.
Comprehensive advice on making a Will can be found at the following links:
If you do decide to go for the DIY option, you will find Will-writing kits in most stationers, or ready-made templates available for download online. A guide to writing your own will is available from The Money Advice Service.
Some trade unions offer a free Will-writing service to their members, often using their own solicitors to undertake the work.
Some of the major charities offer Will-writing services, via local sollicitors, in return for a legacy (even a small one), so if you have a favourite charity it may be worth looking into what they offer.
A detailed guide, "Wills and Estate Planning" is available for download from AgeUK.org.
Turn2Us Free Wills Service offers individuals and their partners, aged over 50, the opportunity to have a simple will written, or have a current will amended, by a qualified solicitor free of charge.
Will Aid is an annual fundraising campaign involving nine of the UK’s leading charities. They will arrange for your Will to be drawn up by a qualified professional solicitor in your area in return for a donation to one of their supported charities. For more information go to the Will Aid website.
A Will Planner is available for download at willaid.org.uk.
Otherwise it’s worth speaking to a solicitor.
Help with Legal Advice (including finding a sollicitor)" is available from AgeUK.org.uk.
Appointing an Executor
When your Will is drawn up you will need to appoint an executor.
An executor is the person or persons who deal with distributing your money and property after your death. Being an executor can involve a lot of work and responsibility, so you should consider carefully their be suitability and check with them that they are willing to act on your behalf.
You will then need to:
Reviewing your Will
Remember that you should review your Will at least every five years and after any major life change such as getting separated, married or divorced, having a child or a grandchild or moving house. Also changes to Inheritance Tax regulations may require a change to your Will.
It is best to deal with any major changes by getting a new Will drawn up. But it is also possible to make minor changes, called "codicils" to your existing Will.
Lasting powers of attorney (LPAs) meet the needs of those who can see a time ahead when they will not be able to look after their own personal and financial affairs. The LPA allows them to make appropriate arrangements for family members or trusted friends to be authorised to make decisions on their behalf.
Full details of Lasting Power of Attorney are available here.
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