There are many reasons to make a will. The most important reason depends on your own individual circumstances – whether it be because of family dynamics or the assets you own. Whatever your situation, however, you definitely need to make a will.
Here, in no particular order, are the reasons why you need to make a will.
Certainty over who will inherit
Making a will gives you certainty over what will happen to your estate after you pass away. It gives you control.
Imagine if I said to you, today you must give away everything you own – all your money, investments, and worldly goods. Would you just throw it all up in the air and say, “Let it land wherever it may?” Of course not! You would sit down and reflect on what you have, what you’re worth, and who you would like to give it all to, wouldn’t you?
That’s why you need to make a will – to be sure that your assets are divided up in the way you would like them to be. There are all sorts of provisions in wills that can be used to achieve that certainty, and it can be kept simple, or it can be more complex, depending on your circumstances.
Given that we are fortunate in this country to have the right to choose our beneficiaries, it makes absolute sense to exercise that right by making a will. Otherwise, you’re leaving it to the government to decide who gets what.
Making a will means you decide:
- Who benefits from your estate
- What amounts or proportion they get
- When they get their inheritance – whether on death or deferred for some years or till a certain age
- How they are to get it, such as whether outright or in trust
That is what choice is all about, and you can only do it if you have a legally binding will.
Gifts to your partner
If you are not married to or in a civil partnership with your partner, it is essential that you make a will as your partner has no automatic entitlement to your estate. Many people assume that so-called common-law spouses have an entitlement by law, but there is no such thing within the English law of succession. You have to make a will to make sure they will receive what you want them to have.
Gifts to your spouse
Although your spouse or civil partner inherits automatically under your will, the intestacy rules limit the amount your spouse or civil partner will get if you have children. Making a will is the only way to ensure that your spouse or civil partner will get what you decide to give them. You can use trusts to put some limitations over your spouse or civil partner disposing of what he/she gets from your will, sometimes for inheritance tax purposes or because you want to restrict what they can do with the estate, especially if there are children from a prior relationship. You can only use a trust if you make a will. Find out about trusts here.
Gifts to your children
Although the intestacy rules allow your children to inherit, you might prefer not to leave it to those rules to decide what your children should get and, even more importantly, the age at which they should inherit. Under the intestacy rules, the default age at which children inherit is 18 years. This can enable an irresponsible 18-year-old to get his/her hands on a £1m inheritance just because you didn’t make a will. You can change the age they should inherit at if you make a will. Also, you might want to defer their inheritance until after your spouse or civil partner dies. That will only happen if you make provision for that in your will. Find out about the intestacy rules here.
Gifts to grandchildren
Many people would like to make gifts to their grandchildren, but they will not inherit under the intestacy rules unless one of your children dies before you, leaving children of his or her own. Some people want to make small token gifts while others want to make larger gifts of money to their grandchildren. You may even decide to leave them an inheritance to help them get on the property ladder. You could also decide, as part of your estate planning, to skip a generation if their parents are well off and don’t need the money. Making a will allows you to put all these plans in place.
Make gifts to other relatives and friends
You might want to make gifts to other relatives, stepchildren, and friends. Under the intestacy rules, your other relatives will only inherit something from your estate if you have no spouse or civil partner, no children, and no grandchildren. That means you need to make a will if you want to leave mementoes or other gifts to them or to your friends. If you are a stepparent, remember that your stepchildren have no right to inherit from your estate. That means you must make a will if you want them to inherit.
Choose who will look after your children
If you have children under the age of majority (18 years), making a will gives you the opportunity to say who should look after them when you’re gone. You can include financial and other provisions to help those you choose to be guardians. Making a will allows you the choice and the opportunity to do so.
Please go to Part 2 of this post for more reasons why you need to make a will. Please contact us if you would like to make a will.