The importance of a will
Why do you need a will?
You may have heard that having a will is important, but do you know why?
A will is a legal document that states how you want your assets to be distributed after you die. It also allows you to appoint an executor, who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes.
Without a will, your assets will be distributed according to the intestacy laws of your state. This may not be in line with your wishes, and it could lead to conflict among your family members.
Benefits of having a will
It ensures that your final wishes are carried out. With a will, you can be sure that your assets will be distributed to the people you want, in the way you want.
It protects your loved ones. If you have minor children, a will can appoint a guardian for them. You can also use a will to leave specific assets to your loved ones, such as your home or family heirlooms.
It can minimize taxes. A will can help to reduce the amount of estate taxes that your heirs have to pay.
It can avoid conflict. A well-written will can help to prevent disputes among your family members after you die.
In this article, we'll discuss how to create a will, the different types of wills, and what to consider before making one. We'll also explain where to store your will and other important factors.
Seek professional help when writing a will in the UK
Only adults over 18 and of sound mind can write a will in the UK.
It's possible to write your own will, but it's best to get professional help to make sure it's legally valid and correct. Using a suitable legal service will ensure that the document precisely reflects the testator's desires and complies with relevant laws and regulations.
They can also help you appoint an executor, distribute your assets, minimize tax, and plan for unexpected events.
Different types of wills in the UK
There are different types of wills to choose from, depending on your needs. The best type of will for you depends on how complex your estate is, your family structure, and your personal preferences.
Here are three of the most common types of wills in the UK:
Simple will: This is the simplest type of will and is suitable for people with uncomplicated estates. It states who you want your assets to go to and names an executor to carry out your wishes. It may also name guardians for minor children.
Joint will: This is a single will for two people, such as spouses or partners. It states that when one person dies, their assets go to the other person. When both people have died, the assets are then distributed to the beneficiaries named in the will.
Living will: This is not a traditional will, but it is a legal document that states your wishes for medical treatment and end-of-life care if you become incapacitated and cannot communicate your wishes.
Make your wishes clear in your will
As the testator, you have the legal right to exclude almost anyone from your will or leave them a minimal inheritance. You can distribute your assets as you see fit.
For example, you may have an estranged relationship with a family member and might choose not to include them in your will. Alternatively, you might choose to prioritize heirs based on need rather than dividing assets equally. That means you may choose to include a family member with financial hardships in your will.
On the other hand, some individuals may decide to leave a substantial portion of their estate to charitable organizations or causes they support, reducing the amount left to family members.
Whichever will you choose to write, it's essential to be clear and specific to avoid misunderstandings or potential legal challenges.
If you intend to exclude a family member or limit their inheritance, consult a solicitor to ensure that your wishes are legally expressed. Properly documenting your intentions can help prevent disputes among surviving family members and minimize the risk of your will being contested in the future.
Why you need witnesses for your will
Having witnesses present when you sign your will is essential to make it legally valid. This is known as attestation, and it provides independent verification that the will is genuine and that you were of sound mind when you signed it.
The number of witnesses required and specific witnessing rules vary depending on the laws of your country or state. In general, most jurisdictions (including England) require at least two witnesses to be present when you sign your will, and the witnesses must also sign the document.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing witnesses for your will:
- The witnesses must be over the age of 18 and of sound mind.
- The witnesses cannot be beneficiaries of your will or their spouses or partners.
- The witnesses must be present at the same time when you sign the will, and they must all sign the document in your presence.
It is important to choose witnesses who you trust and who are reliable. They should also be able to understand the importance of their role and be willing to testify in court if necessary.
Ensure the last will’s safekeeping
Once you have written your will, it is important to store it in a safe and secure place where it can be easily found after your death. Here are a few options to consider:
- With your solicitor: Many solicitors offer to store wills for their clients, either free of charge or for a small fee. This can be a convenient option, as your solicitor will be able to ensure that your will is properly executed and stored in accordance with the law.
- With a trusted friend or family member: If you do not have a solicitor, or if you prefer to keep your will private, you can store it with a trusted friend or family member. However, it is important to choose someone who is reliable and who understands the importance of the document.
- In a safe deposit box: Storing your will in a safe deposit box is another option, but it is important to note that your executor will need to have access to the box in order to retrieve the will after your death.
- At home: If you choose to store your will at home, be sure to keep it in a safe place where it is unlikely to be damaged or lost. You may want to consider storing it in a fireproof safe or lockbox.
No matter where you choose to store your will, it is important to let your executor know where it is located. You may also want to consider giving them a copy of the will for their records.