March is Free Wills Month and is the perfect time to write or review your will. Clare Moffat, Pensions & Legal Expert at Royal London, explains the five things you should never do when it comes to writing a will.
Don’t keep putting it off
Writing a will often never makes it off the to-do list, but having a valid, up to date will is an important step in making sure your assets go to those you want to receive them. You may not think you have many assets to pass on, but if you own a house, it’s important to include it in your will. It’s also important, if you have children, to express who you would like to be responsible for their care. Writing a will might seem like a tedious task, but our research found nearly nine in ten (86%) people who had written a will thought the overall process was easy.
Don’t forget to update it
It’s important to think of your will as a live document, and therefore one that reflects your stage in life. If you’ve recently been through a big life event such as marriage, divorce, you’ve bought a house or had children, make sure your will reflects your new circumstances. We found that six in ten (62%) people haven’t reviewed their will in over a year, with three in ten (29%) leaving it more than 5 years. Reviewing your will can be just as important as writing it.
Don’t ignore your living status
If you live with your partner unmarried – also known as cohabiting – it’s even more important to keep an up-to-date will as you won’t have the same automatic inheritance rights as those who are married. This means that anything which belonged to the person who died will usually go to their relatives, even if they have cohabited with their partner for many years. Having an up-to-date will is vital if you’re cohabiting.
Don’t keep it a secret
While no one likes to talk about death, it’s essential we have these uncomfortable conversations with our loved ones to avoid causing problems for them after you’re gone. Once you’ve written a will, make sure your next of kin, and your chosen executor (the person who carries out your wishes) knows where to find it. This applies to all of your financial documents.
Don’t forget your pension
People often use the term ‘estate’ to mean everything someone leaves behind when they die, but your pension won’t normally form part of your estate, so won’t be covered by your will. Instead, you should make sure that you fill in a nomination of beneficiary form, so that the pension scheme knows who you would like to receive it. In some cases, the pension can be worth as much or more than the value of assets in the estate.
During Free Wills Month, selected solicitors offer free will-writing services for people over 55 across England, Scotland Wales. In exchange you can leave something in your will to charity.