What Are the Benefits of Making a Will?
The number of stories of families falling out over will disputes is staggering, and indeed, the concept has become the backdrop for a number of crime stories across the decades.
Inheritance and the feeling of fairness between family members can have a huge impact on lives, with repercussions going on for years and even decades later.
By making a will, you can help alleviate these issues, as well as ensure your affairs are dealt with in exactly the ways you wish.
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A will is a legal document that states your wishes for your estate after your death. Without a will, your property, money and possessions fall under the rules of intestacy, which could mean them going to a person you didn’t intend or, worse, being liquidated and lost before there’s a chance for them to reach the hands of your loved ones.
But it’s not just distributing your heirlooms and favourite photos that encompass your will – there are several very serious implications to not having your wishes known in a will.
1 - Protecting your children and loved ones
Before you even give the first consideration to the monetary value of your assets, it is important you look to the people you are responsible for.
If you have children under 16, then it is important to list in your will your desires for them in terms of living arrangements, passing on parental responsibility and guardianship. In a marriage, the children would automatically stay with their other parent, but in cases where the parents have separated and a child-arrangements order is in place, the death of one parent may result in the children suddenly finding themselves living with the other when that isn’t the ideal situation.
It could also be the tragic case that an accident happens that robs the children of both their parents – without a will in place, they could end up housed with people you do not want them to live with.
Clearly stating if you wish to pass on your parental responsibility to another, and any other wishes you have regarding your children’s upbringing is important.
The following are some examples of situations where determining your child’s future in your will may be important:
You live unmarried with your partner who is a step-parent to your children and want to make sure that, on your death, the children can stay in situ and continue their life with your partner as their main parent.
You are separated from the children’s other parent and despite them having parental responsibility, you worry about the children in their care and would rather they live full-time with your parents, or another relative.
You assume that your children will remain with your spouse (their other parent), but you both die together, and the children are left without a defined home and relations fighting over responsibility.
Your children came from different relationships and you fear siblings will be split apart in the case of your death, each sent to their respective other parent.
You do not wish your children to live with a specific relative in the case of a tragedy where their parents die but technically, this relative is your next of kin and could obtain guardianship by default.
You wish your children to continue being brought up with your religious beliefs, but other potential guardians do not share your religion.
It is also emotionally important that the children know that you were thinking of them and that you had their future in mind when you made the will. If something happens to them that they neither wanted nor expected, and they discover that you simply didn’t bother to take the time to make sure their lives were secure, it may harm their memory of you and their own lives going forward.
2 – Ensuring the security of those you leave behind
Making sure that your affairs are in order means that the family home, the funds which dictate your family’s day-to-day life and any plans you have in place for the future are all dealt with in the right way.
If you do not have a will, the rules of intestacy could mean that your family get nothing and lose their home to a family member who doesn’t have their best interests at heart. This is especially true if you are not married – by intestate law, an unmarried partner is not entitled to anything, and they could easily lose their home and even their children if your will does not make sure they are looked after.
Make it clear in your will how you want your home and general finances divided and prevent any potential problems before they arise.
3 – Making sure your money goes where you want it to
The most obvious part of making a will is to make sure your estate (a term which means the collection of all your assets, whether they are property, possessions, shares, or actual cash) is divided as you truly want.
There is a great deal of emotion tied up regarding inheritance, and arguments over who was supposed to get what can wreck relationships permanently – sometimes over the smallest thing, such as your wedding ring, or a favoured memento. Conflicts that begin “Mum always intended for me to have that!”, or “Dad promised that to me!” can last for decades and harbour resentments that never leave.
By simply going through all your important possessions and listing who you would like to have them, you can prevent many inheritance disputes between your loved ones.
It is also advisable to discuss your intentions before you die so that there are no surprises. Often, people enjoy surprises, but when it comes to a claim on a beloved item, surprises are never good.
4 – Looking after your pets
It may seem unimportant to some, but without any specific instructions regarding your pets, it is easy for them to end up in a rescue centre or worse.
With family members quick to distance themselves from the responsibility of pets, it would be kind to both the pets themselves, and the family members who would genuinely love to look after your animals, to make sure they go to the right place.
You may also want to consider leaving a small amount of money to go along with your pets to help with the financial impact they will bring.
5 – Having the funeral you want
Many people have a very specific idea in their head regarding their funeral arrangements and the way their body is used after death – and yours may not be in line with the person who ultimately is left with making the decision.
Every aspect that is important to you should be covered, from whether you want your body to be used for medical science or whether you want a traditional burial, to the types of flowers you like and the music you’d appreciate being played at a memorial.
Depending on the arrangements you would like made, it can also be expensive and leaving that cost as a burden for your family is unfair. Try to make sure there is enough in your estate earmarked to cover those costs and allow your family to grieve and say goodbye without falling into debt.
One of the benefits of a will is that it helps you take the time to properly consider your estate and the impact that the law is going to have on it.
In the UK, inheritance tax will have to be paid as 40% on all assets over the value of £325,000 (the current nil rate band in 2019) but there are ways you can reduce this impact on your estate and your heirs.
Reduce inheritance tax through careful planning
When you write your will with your solicitor, you can control how your assets will be shared and how they are considered. A good solicitor will be able to offer advice here to reduce or avoid inheritance tax as much as possible – they should be listened to as all help that they give will be completely legal and just a sensible way of considering your assets.
Consider life insurance to pay any expected inheritance tax bill
Taking out life insurance cover that is put into trust can provide a cash sum for your heirs to cover the inheritance tax bill without having to liquidate any assets. This is especially useful if the majority of your estate is represented in the family home which would have to be sold to cover the inheritance tax bill.
Don’t leave your grieving and vulnerable family members having to find a new home when a reasonably-priced insurance policy could keep their current one safe for them.
A lot of advice can be given regarding your will and how to make sure your assets end up in the right place, but one of the great benefits in having a will is the strong amount of emotional wellbeing that comes with it.
Without a will, your family are suddenly left bereft. There are no final words to cling on to, no true understanding of your wishes, and nothing to fill the void where you used to be. Though a will is obviously written well in advance of your actual death, a lot of grieving loved ones will find a level of assurance in it.
Your will lets them know that you were thinking of them. It can show a closeness of your bond as you go through your minor possessions and heirlooms and leave them to the people you know would appreciate them for their emotional value, rather than monetary value.
Writing a will is especially important for your children, who are bound to have some disagreement regarding their parent no matter their age – your children do not stop being children just because they are in their 40s with families of their own! By providing a record of your choices, you can cut off disagreements in their early stages and allow your children to come together in their grief rather than using the situation as a reason to push apart.
Remember – you are not limited to simply listing items and their beneficiaries, it is your will and the odd piece of commentary and personal touch in there is likely to bring a smile with a pleasant memory to your family.
How Compare UK Quotes can help
No one likes to consider their own death. As a culture, we tend to veer away from it but avoiding making a comprehensive will could lead to intestacy or a long probate process you’d rather was avoided. It’s far better to put your affairs in order and know that even a sudden accident doesn’t leave your family uprooted and struggling.
For more advice regarding your will, life insurance or any aspect of personal finance, take a look at our extensive library of articles.