If you want reassurance that what you own goes to the people that mean the most to you, you should make a will.
Many people die without making a will (otherwise known as dying intestate). When this happens, your money and possessions might not go to the people you want them to.
What is a will?
It's a legal document in which you say what you would like to happen to your estate when you die. Your estate is everything you own at the time of your death. Things like your house, money, investments, car and personal belongings.
Your will doesn't always cover possessions that you jointly own with another person - these will often pass to the joint owner automatically.
How do I make a will?
You can make a will whenever you like. We recommend paying a solicitor or professional will-writer to draw one up for you, rather than using a do-it-yourself will-writing pack.
Getting expert help makes it more likely that your will has a rock-solid legal basis.
We've made an arrangement with the Co-operative Legal Services that could help you prepare your will. The Co-operative Legal Services can offer support and advice on a range of legal matters, and have a team of will writing experts so that you can be sure that you can make your wishes for the future known, giving you and your loved ones the peace of mind and protection you want.
The Co-operative Legal Services offers a telephone and postal-based service, so everything can be arranged from your own home at a time to suit you. They’ll also securely store your will for free until such a time that it’s needed.
Plus, they offer fixed fee pricing wherever possible to help you to keep control of the costs.
For more information on will writing from Co-operative Legal Services call 0330 060 0231.
If you need a solicitor, you can find one near you at www.unbiased.co.uk.
Visit the Citizens Advice Bureau for more information about writing a will.
Why is writing a will important?
Writing a will is the only way to be sure that your money and possessions go to the people that mean the most to you. And that's important.
Although everyone should think about leaving a will, it's especially important if you live with someone but are not married or in a civil partnership. If that's the case, your partner may not be automatically entitled to receive your estate.
If you leave a will, more often than not your assets will go to the people you've identified in your will. However, someone may contest the will, in which case, the courts can get involved.
If you don't leave a will, your estate will be shared out under the rules of intestacy. In England and Wales, anything you own jointly with another person will go to the joint owner. Also, your spouse or civil partner will take precedence over any other member of your family, for at least part of your estate.
Remember, if you die without leaving a will, only your spouse, civil partner and/or blood relations can inherit your estate. So, if you want to leave something to anyone else, you must say so in your will. The rules are slightly different in Scotland.
What should I consider when writing a will?
- Talk to your loved ones. That way nothing will come as a shock to anyone involved.
- You need to appoint at least one executor to carry out the instructions you leave in your will. Choose carefully because your executor will have some difficult decisions to make. They'll need to make sure the right amount of tax gets paid and use your assets to maximise the amount of inheritance you leave.
- You can pay a solicitor or professional will-writer to draw up a will or buy a do-it-yourself pack. Think carefully about which option is best for you. A solicitor will be more expensive than doing it yourself, but a will drawn up by a solicitor is less likely to contain any mistakes that could give grounds for someone to contest it at a later date. The Co-operative Legal Service can help make sure your will is legally valid.
- If you've released equity from your home, it will reduce the inheritance you leave, so think about the consequences of this and discuss it with your family.
- As well as making a will, you can also take out a plan to cover the cost of your funeral.
Do I need to think about inheritance tax?
If your estate is valued above the tax threshold, your beneficiaries may have to pay inheritance tax. This is usually 40% on anything above the threshold.
The threshold is fixed at £325,000 for a single person and £650,000 for a married couple or civil partners until 2018.
Find out if your estate is likely to attract inheritance tax with our inheritance tax calculator.
For inheritance tax planning advice, you'll need a financial adviser who can look at your personal circumstances and recommend the best course of action. Find an adviser near you at www.unbiased.co.uk.