The importance of having a will

Published  15 April 2024
   4 min read

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 when you’re gone.  
But why else is having a will essential? 

Protect your partner 

If you’re not married or in a civil partnership but living as a cohabiting couple it’s even more important to have a will in place. Cohabitees don't have the same legal rights and obligations as married couples or civil partners, especially when it comes to legal and tax matters. Dying without a will could result in your partner not inheriting anything. In such cases, assets typically pass to any children you have together. If you co-owned property as joint tenants, your partner may retain the family home. However, if ownership was as tenants in common, your share could potentially pass to your children, parents, or siblings, rather than your partner. 

Planning for a change in relationship 

If you're separated but not yet divorced, any will created during your marriage remains in effect, including any provisions for your former spouse. However, in the event of divorce, your ex-spouse is typically removed from the will. If you decide to remarry, it's essential to draft a new will to reflect your updated circumstances.

Control over your assets 

As well as naming who you’d like to receive specific assets, a will can also, albeit less commonly, be used to name specific people whom you don’t want to receive an inheritance. 

Guardianship arrangements 

The appointment of a guardian can provide you with some comfort, knowing your children would be looked after by someone you've chosen. The advantage of naming a guardian in a will is that you can also make additional financial arrangements to support them within the same document. 

Inheritance tax planning 

Any assets transferred between spouses and civil partners during life and on death are exempt from inheritance tax. You may want to consider making certain gifts during your lifetime as a way of reducing the value of your estate. Certain gifts made on death are also exempt from IHT, including gifts to charities and political parties (assuming they meet the eligibility criteria) and gifts for the national benefit, such as gifts to the National Trust or museums. 

Avoid your estate being subject to intestacy rules 

Dying without a will means your assets which form part of your estate will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy and could result in a very different outcome than what you might want.  
It’s important to think of your will as a live document. 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.