Why everyone should have a Will

Written by Paul Smith

March 4, 2021

Why everyone should have a Will

It’s very easy to procrastinate about making a Will – and about keeping it up to date. It can seem quite daunting and very few of us are willing to contemplate our own mortality. However, none of us can escape the reality that one day we will succumb to the grim reaper or that it could come suddenly and unexpectedly. But many people feel a great sense of relief when they actually  complete their Will.. That’s a good feeling to have but  there are also some very important reasons to have made a Will rather than dying intestate (without leaving a Will) as you can see from the following examples:

  • If you have a Will, you can leave what YOU want to the people YOU choose including any family members, friends and charities.  If you don’t have a Will, the law specifies how your assets are to be divided and the people who will benefit. And that might not be at all what you want or expect or be the people you most want to help.  For example, if you are married (which includes  a civil partnership) and don’t have children your spouse may have to share your estate with your parents or your brothers and sisters;
  • If you have children and are married  but die without a Will, your estate will not necessarily pass to your spouse, unless all your assets are jointly owned with your spouse – and your home might not be jointly owned in such a way that it will go to your spouse.
  • If you are not married  and die without a Will, your partner has no automatic right of inheritance from you. This can come as a nasty surprise to some people who mistakenly believe that a “common law” husband or wife has a legal standing to inherit from you. But if you make a Will, you can leave what YOU want  to your unmarried partner;  
  • If you have a Will, you can name the people YOU want to manage your affairs and distribute your assets after your death (they are known as Executors). Without a Will, the law specifies who can apply to do this and it is more difficult and uncertain for them than if they were named by you in your Will.
  • Whether you are married  or if you are unmarried, YOU will be able to appoint a guardian to bring up your children rather than risking it being taken out of your hands by social services who might not make the decision YOU think best for YOUR children.
  • You may wish to have specific wishes in respect of your funeral arrangements or wish your organs to be used for medical purposes. If you have a Will, your wishes can be recorded in it.

It is essential to make sure your Will is legally valid and that your wishes will be followed. In many cases, making a valid Will is relatively easy and straightforward.  However, it can be disastrous for those you leave behind and want to help and benefit if mistakes are made.   You can avoid the pitfalls  by consulting a professional to ensure that your Will is legally valid and that your wishes will be followed.

It is also important to keep your Will up to date so that it reflects your changing wishes and any major life changes, such as the arrival of children and grandchildren. If there are only minor alterations, the simplest and cheapest way is to write them in a document called a Codicil which you then sign in the same way as the Will itself to make it valid. What you should never do is attempt to change your Will by crossing things out or adding them into it because this is almost certain to invalidate your original Will altogether.

Finally, it is important to consider what will happen to your digital assets. Photos, music, social media accounts and emails from loved ones are often just as treasured as physical possessions. A recent survey has revealed that over ninety percent of people had not included any digital assets in their Will. Just as important is the fact that keeping a careful record of online passwords will make sure that your family can access digital assets and are not faced with problems during the probate application.

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