SAMPLE: Why you should make your will (a post similar to this was written for a solicitors website in 2016)
Free Wills Month is organised by a group of charities to encourage those over the age of fifty five to write a will.
But writing a will isn't just something you should consider when you're approaching your sixth decade. Although no one likes to think about it, a sudden accident or a health crisis can strike you whatever your age. Creating a will is essential to help give peace of mind to those left behind, and ensure that your wishes are followed after your death.
In the UK the concept of a “common law partner” is not recognised in law. That means that if you die without a will, your next of kin will be your parents, or children if you have them. Should you have no children and have already lost your parents, your next of kin will be your closest blood relative such as siblings. This can cause all manner of problems. Even if your partner gets along well with your family it will take time, and a lot of stress, to sort out your affairs. Bank accounts in your sole name will be assigned to family, if you've bought property in your sole name then that will go to them too (if you have a “tenants in common” mortgage then this can also cause problems). Your partner could effectively be blocked from accessing the money they need to pay the bills and keep a roof over their head.
Of course for some people family members can be estranged. Again the law doesn't recognise this, you could have been with your partner for fifteen years, and not spoken to your family for the past twenty years, but under the law your family will inherit your assets. Getting your wishes on paper will ensure that your partner does not have to face legal battles while dealing with grief.
If you are married then this can make things a little easier, but a will should still be written. Your partner will inherit your estate, but if you die without a will then they may be charged inheritance tax. Writing a will, even a basic one that declares that you leave your husband or wife everything, will mean that they don't have to try to find the money to pay an unexpected tax bill.
What you can include in a will
Along with leaving your money to a person, several people, or charity, your will can also nominate guardians for children or pets. It's always best to discuss this with the relative people first, you may think your brother and his wife would be great parents, but that doesn't mean they could cope with your three children should the worst happen. Likewise your wife's sister may joke that she wants the dog if you die, but that doesn't mean that you should name her as recipient of your pets without talking to her.
You can also detail how you'd like your funeral to be carried out. Whether you want burial or cremation, if you've already paid for a plot, or if you'd like your ashes to be tipped in to a bottle of brandy and thrown over the side of a boat while a brass band plays “For he's a jolly good fellow”. If you haven't discussed your wishes with your family then at least leaving things in writing means that difficult decisions are already made for them, making arrangements a little easier during a difficult time.
A solicitor can help you draw up a will, ensure that all areas have been covered, and that it's legally binding and difficult to challenge in court. By getting such paperwork sorted out early on you could make a very challenging situation less difficult for your loved ones, and make sure that horrible aunt Betty doesn't get your pet chinchilla.