Writing a will is one of the most important steps of your life. Not only does it ensure that your possessions are distributed according to your wishes, it also provides peace of mind for those you leave behind by stating clearly who you want to care for your children and manage your estate when you are gone.
However, according to recent Law Society research, more than half of those surveyed (59%) said they did not have a will, and just 29% said they have an up-to-date will which reflects their current intentions.
Misconceptions abound about the importance, process, cost and complexity of making a will; Catherine Causey, Head of Private Client Law at WBW Solicitors in Newton Abbot, attempts to bust the top 10 myths below.
Myth 1: I do not have anything of value to leave
Even if you do not own your own home or have lots of savings to pass on, you almost certainly have something worth inheriting, such as money in your bank account, jewellery, clothes, or items of sentimental value that you would like to give to someone specific.
Myth 2: It takes too much time and money to make a will
Depending on the complexity of your estate, making a will can be very straightforward. It helps if you have an experienced private client solicitor who can quickly get to the heart of your wishes and can help arrange your affairs in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Myth 3: I am too young to make a will
Sadly, death can take people of all ages – as the Covid-19 pandemic has shown. It is never too early to make a will and by doing so you will be saving your loved ones a huge amount of heartache and hassle after you have gone.
Myth 4: Once I have written a will it cannot be changed
You can actually change your will as often as you like. If you just want to make a small change, such as increasing the value of a cash gift or appointing a different executor or guardian, you can use a codicil – a legal document stating any changes which is stored alongside your actual will. For major changes such as changing your main beneficiary, it is best to draw up a totally new will.
Myth 5: I already have a will so do not need to think about it anymore
You should review your will every three to five years to ensure all of those you want to benefit from it, or serve as your guardians or executors, have remained the same as when you drew the will up. You should also update your will if there is a major change in your life such as divorce, the birth or death of a family member, or a change in your financial circumstances.
Myth 6: My family knows my wishes, so I do not need a will
If you die without making a will, your family does not have the power to distribute your estate in the way you may have wanted. Instead, your estate must be dealt with according to the strict rules of intestacy as laid out in the Administration of Estates Act 1925.
Myth 7: I’m married so I do not need a will as everything will go to my partner
Again, if you die without making a will, the rules of intestacy will apply and although your spouse will receive a proportion of your estate, how your assets are distributed will depend on factors such as how much you are worth and whether you have children.
Myth 8: My debts will die with me
Unfortunately, any outstanding debts you have will have to be paid from your estate upon your death. By making a will, you can state where you want your assets to go, so they do not necessarily have to be sold to cover debts.
Myth 9: I have a power of attorney so I do not need a will
A lasting power of attorney only lets your attorney(s) manage your affairs during your lifetime; once you die, their powers end. Making a will allows you to outline who you want to deal with your estate when you pass.
Myth 10: I have asked my friends to look after my children if I die
If you have a will, you can name anyone you like to look after your children after you have gone. If you do not, it will be the court which decides who will act as their guardian and your wishes will not necessarily be considered.
How a solicitor can help
If you are considering drawing up a will, seek expert legal advice beforehand. Our specialist private client solicitors can help you draft a will to exactly reflect your wishes and ensure it is legally valid. They can also advise you on how to organise your affairs to minimise the impact of tax demands on your loved ones after you have gone.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.