Many of us assume that our ‘next of kin’ will automatically assume control of our estate, but that isn't always the case unless we have prepared a will. Drawing up a will and naming an executor is a good way to ensure that the cash benefit we leave behind, along with our other assets, goes to those we intended.
Others believe that only the wealthy or the elderly need to put their affairs in order. As a result, around 60% of adults in the UK have no will, potentially leaving their families with a legal headache to solve when money could be tight. There’s no need for confusion where a will is concerned.
Find out why everyone should consider having a will, what the process involves, and how British Seniors can help further protect your family.
Who needs a will?
As soon as you’re 18 years old, you’re old enough to legally make a will, although not many young adults will see estate planning as a priority.
But as you get older, have children and accumulate an estate, a will provides a legal framework for the division of your assets after your death. Don’t assume that a will is only necessary if you have property, savings or investments to divide. Families can come to serious disagreements over things as simple as jewellery, ornaments or even mementos.
In short, if you own assets or you owe debts, you should seriously consider drawing up a will.
What is a last will and testament?
There’s more to a will than simply sharing out your belongings. It’s about formally nominating the person responsible for administering your estate (the ‘executor’) and identifying the beneficiaries to receive or assume responsibility for assets. The most recent version of your will before your death is referred to as your last will and testament.
In legal terms, a will trumps any promises or passing comments you may have made to your loved ones – so it must be clear, comprehensive and legally watertight.
What difference does a will make?
Without a will, your assets are distributed according to the rules of intestacy. At best, that adds further delays and expense. At worst, it can unleash family disputes and legal wrangles.
Your assets may not end up being distributed as you had intended, and your family could end up having to field numerous queries and demands from HMRC, creditors, banks and so on.
A will ‘puts your affairs in order’, setting out in clear terms what you own and what you owe, where assets are located, and who is responsible for tying up any loose ends.
Do I have to use a solicitor to write my will?
There is no legal requirement to use a solicitor to make a will, but it could be a good idea to use a professional will writing service.
The difference in cost can be substantial, while a solicitor could be expensive for a single will, there are simple will services that could be less than £150. You may only need the legal expertise of a solicitor if your circumstances and the division of your assets are particularly complex. You should also seek legal or professional advice if making amendments to an existing will to ensure that there are no loopholes or contradictions introduced.
We offer all our Over 50s Life Insurance policyholders a FREE Will Kit worth £100. The kit includes all the information you need to write a legal will from the comfort of your own home.
How do I start making a will?
The first step to drawing up a will is to make a list of your assets. This list should include information on property, savings, and investments as well as insurance and pensions (whether held single or joint).
You should also include any personal items or valuables that you would like to bequeath to a specific family member, friend or organisation. Once you have compiled your assets, you should appoint an executor to administer the division of your estate after you die.
To make things easier, we offer a FREE Will Kit worth up to £100 when you take out a British Seniors Over 50 Life Insurance policy.
With this, you can prepare your last wishes and put your affairs in order, with all the forms in one place for you to complete using easy-to-follow instructions. That means you won’t have to spend hundreds of pounds on a solicitor. Our service guarantees that you have a legally sound, professional will on file so that the process is as painless as possible for your dependents when you’re gone.
How do I ensure that my will is valid?
A will must be signed by you in front of two witnesses, who must then sign it in your presence. These witnesses cannot be beneficiaries of the will.
To avoid any issues regarding undue influence or mental capacity, it could be worth including an introductory preamble that confirms you drew up the will voluntarily and of sound mind.
How do I nominate an Executor?
You must legally nominate an executor for your last will and testament. This person doesn’t have to be a solicitor, but they should be a trusted figure with the time and capacity to take on the challenge.
This person can be a beneficiary of the will. The executor is responsible for making sure the property owned by the deceased person is secure, as soon as possible after the death. They must collect any assets and/or money due to the estate of the person who has died (including their property), they are responsible for paying any outstanding taxes or debts out of the estate and distributing the estate to the relevant people i.e. those named as beneficiaries in the will.
How do I change my will?
Some people draw up their will once and require no further changes until it becomes their last will and testament upon their death.
However, many of us will need to make changes, either by choice or in response to changing circumstances. For example, following divorce or remarriage, births or deaths within the family, or significant changes to your assets. You may want to review your will every five years or so to keep up with changes in your life.
To update your will, you can add a ‘codicil’ or you can make an entirely new will if you wish. This is made in the same way as your original will in that it has to be signed and witnessed by two people. The codicil, however, is drawn up on a separate document.
Can someone contest my will?
Although a will is designed to avoid conflict and establish legal clarity, there are some circumstances where family members or associates can challenge what is contained within.
Typically, this would be on the basis that there was undue influence on the person making the will, or that the person did not have ‘testamentary capacity’ (in other words they lacked the mental capacity to make a will). In some cases, family members or friends can contest a will simply on the basis that they believe they were entitled to assets (or a bigger share).
An example would be where there are several children or grandchildren involved or dependents from more than one family or stepfamily. In this scenario, the onus is on the person contesting the will to mount a legal challenge.
Where a will is contested, there may be a legal wrangle that holds up the division of the estate, but the situation could be even worse without a will in the first place.
What do I do with the will after it’s done?
To ensure a smooth process after your death, leave your will with your chosen executor. If you are entrusting it to friends, family or a storage service, it is important that your executors know where to access the will quickly following your death.