Writing a Will may be the last thing on your mind right now, but by taking action, you can ensure loved ones get the money, property and belongings you want them to have once you die.
DIY Wills can appear to be good value
When it comes to Will-writing, one of the cheapest options is a DIY Will – some of which can be priced at £20 or less. But while an off-the-shelf Will or online equivalent may seem very tempting at this price, this can be a risky approach.
Tread carefully before drawing up a DIY Will
If you make any errors when drawing up a Will yourself, or if you fail to get it witnessed correctly, this could render the document invalid. Other common mistakes include mis-spelt names and failure to sign the document correctly.
If your Will is invalidated, you risk leaving your family with a huge amount of problems and financial stress at what is already a very emotional time. There is also a risk that your legacy could be eroded by legal bills or unnecessary tax.
Read our guide to reducing inheritance tax.
Does a DIY Will ever make sense?
If you affairs are very simple, you could potentially consider writing your own Will. This might apply if, for example, you are married to your partner, expect to leave behind a small estate, and plan on leaving everything to each other.
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Most people should seek professional advice
That said, in most cases, it is usually worth using a professional, as people’s affairs are rarely straightforward. With an off-the-shelf Will, costs can be greatly reduced, but so are your chances of preparing a legally-binding document.
Seeking advice is particularly important if there are any complications, or if any conditions need to be added. This may be the case if, for example, you aren’t married to your partner, or if you and your partner have children from previous relationships.
It’s also vital to use a professional if you are looking to split properties, if you own a business, have overseas assets, or are worried about Inheritance Tax (IHT). At the same time, if you are simply nervous about making mistakes, having a Will drawn up by a professional is your best option, as this will give you the peace of mind of knowing this document has been prepared correctly
Read more about making a Will.
How much will it cost?
While some people delay drawing up a Will because of fears about the price, it doesn’t have to cost the earth. If you go to a solicitor a basic Will can start at between £100 and £300.
If you and your partner both want to draw up Wills, savings can be made by drawing up mirror Wills. These are designed for couples who have very similar wishes, and usually cost less than two individual Wills.
Get great ideas for saving money, plus information on your consumer rights, pensions, tax and much more in our Money section.
Why is it so important to write a Will?
According to Unbiased, in 2017 over half of UK adults did not have a Will in place. But if you die intestate, this could leave costs and complications to relatives left behind. This is because your estate is then distributed according to the Rules of Intestacy.
Under these rules, which were changed in October 2014, unmarried partners may get nothing, and spouses may receive a lot less than they had expected. A Will is the only way to ensure the right people benefit from your estate when you die. It is also the best way to ensure more of your estate goes to your loved ones – rather than to the Chancellor in Inheritance Tax.
In addition, a Will can be used to set out who you want to look after your children, and the charities you wish to leave gifts to.
Read more about what happens if you die without making a Will.
Who should draw up a Will?
A Will is a vital document that everyone should draw up; it is even more essential if you are cohabiting with your partner and have significant assets, or if you have children or stepchildren from earlier relationships.
While many people think that writing a Will is something they can leave until their later years, you cannot afford to delay drawing up this document, as you never know what might happen. Putting “writing a Will” at the top of your to-do list may involve some tough conversations with your loved ones in the short term, but will save a lot of heartache in the long run.
It will reduce the risk of uncertainty, emotional turmoil, and long drawn-out disputes, and could be the difference between paying a few hundred pounds now – or your family having to hand over a few thousand in the future.
Frequently asked question
My husband and I are considering mirror wills to protect our children’s inheritance. How much security do they really offer?
Many couples draw up mirror wills to reflect each other’s wishes. Typically, the surviving partner inherits everything, and when they die the family assets go to the couple’s children. The idea is that, should the survivor remarry, the mirror will prevents them leaving everything to their new spouse or family – a growing concern today amid the rise of ‘blended families’. But in fact either partner can change their will while the other is alive – with no obligation to disclose this – or, of course, after their partner dies.
The alternative, a mutual will, may cause the opposite problem, as it is irrevocable – no matter how the surviving partner’s circumstances change.
Talk to your lawyer about drawing up individual wills, passing on certain assets to your children when the first partner dies, or about setting up a discretionary trust that will give you more control over who eventually gets what.
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