Why it’s important to write a will

20 February 2020

4 min read

Faith Archer
Faith Archer

Personal Finance Journalist

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If you don’t make a will, it can create all kinds of complications, especially if you have children, are unmarried or separated. Everything you own gets divided up by law – and may not end up with your nearest and dearest.

No-one likes thinking about death but writing a will can make life much easier for anyone left behind.

Read on to find out why writing a will is important to pass on your last wishes and protect your loved ones.

 

Protect your partner

It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been living with your other half.

If you weren’t married or in a civil partnership, and you die without writing a will, they’re not entitled to a penny. If you have children together, everything goes to the kids.

If you owned property together as joint tenants, then at least they should keep the family home. But if you owned set shares as tenants in common, your share might for example go to your children, parents or siblings, not your partner.

 

Adapt to new relationships

Make sure to update your will as circumstances change. For example, if you’re separated but not divorced, any will made while you were married remains valid – including any legacies to your ex. Divorce removes your ex from the will, so anything left to them will be distributed according to intestacy laws, which might not be what you want. If you remarry, you’ll need to write a whole new will. 

 

Choose who looks after your children

If you have children, you can name guardians in your will to look after them should you die before your kids reach 18. Might be best to mention it to the potential guardians first! Otherwise, the decision could be left to the courts.

 

Decide who sorts everything out after your death

You can appoint ‘executors’ in your will, the people you trust to sort things out after you die. No will? The court will have to appoint executors, and they might not be the people you’d choose.

 

Cut any inheritance tax bill

Writing a will can mean more of your money goes to your nearest and dearest – and less to the tax man. Anything left to your spouse or civil partner is automatically exempt from inheritance tax. Plus, nowadays it’s also possible to protect more of the value of the family home from inheritance tax – but only if you leave it to ‘direct descendants’.

 

Set out plans for your funeral

In a will, you can give clear instructions about whether you wish to be buried or cremated, and even which music you would prefer at the wake. Plus, if you don’t want to burden your family with an expensive funeral, this is your chance to say you’d like a simpler send off.

 

Avoid extra admin for your nearest and dearest

Dying without a will inflicts complicated administrative hassles on those left behind, when your nearest and dearest have to wrestle with the court system and intestacy laws.

 

Provide peace of mind

It’s easy to put off writing a will. Few of us want to dwell on our own death. But once it’s ticked off the to-do list, you have the peace of mind of knowing your wish of protecting your loved ones will be carried out. You can sleep soundly, knowing that any administration issues will be reduced and hopefully help protect them from financial pain.

Biography

Faith Archer is a freelance personal finance journalist and money blogger at Much More With Less. Previously Deputy Personal Finance Editor at The Daily Telegraph. She has also written for publications including The Sunday Times, The Financial Times, Mirror Online and the Money Advice Service.