Five reasons why everybody should have a Will

Over 50% of UK adults do not have a Will - here we outline five reasons why everybody needs one.

1. You need to write a will to ensure you know what will happen to your estate

Having a will helps you to outline who you want your estate passed onto. This includes any housing, possessions and money in your accounts at the time of death. 

If you don’t have a will, you lose that ability to choose and ultimately the decision will be made by the Government. Worst case scenario, this could mean that somebody that you wanted to leave something to will not receive it, and somebody you don’t even like may inherit some of your property. 

Having a will also reduces the likelihood of disputes after you have died as it is a legal document. 

As part of your estate, you may want to consider what would happen to your digital assets too. No really, social media accounts and accounts to services like Netflix and Spotify are now things that people are specifying in their wills. Would you want your Facebook page to be turned into a tribute page or closed down? Would you give your Spotify subscription to a loved one? These are all important questions too. 

Please don’t think you do not have enough of an ‘estate’ to warrant a will. It’s a common misconception that if you don’t own property, you do not need one. Carry on reading to find out even more reasons why you need to make that will.

2. You get to make your choices known 

There are many choices you can make as part of the will writing process, such as: 

  • Choosing your executor. An executor will be the person who carries out the wishes from your will. You can nominate as little as one executor but the normal recommendation is two. However, up to four executors can be named in a will 
  • If you have minor children, a will allows you to set out who you wish to be their guardian in the event that both parents are deceased. Without this in writing, the courts will take it upon themselves to choose a member of the family or state-appointed guardian – both choices which may not have been in your plans. 
  • You can also make it clear in a will who you do not wish to inherit certain items or money
  • If you have pets, you can also outline who you would like to take care of them in the eventuality that you die before they do

3. Avoid expensive and lengthy probate

Probate is a legal and financial process (and well-explained by Co-Op legal services here.

Having a will can speed up this process as you have already put in writing how you’d like your assets split up. When you die intestate (meaning without a will), the courts make the decision on how your estate is divided and this is a far lengthier process. 

4. Your will can be changed and updated

A good reason to write a will now is to have something that reflects your circumstances currently, and which can be updated every five years or so (or after a significant life event such as marriage or remarriage, the birth of a child or buying property). Some people worry unnecessarily that making a will is a irreversible process when it’s quite the opposite and your will may change many times before you die. 

5. You can leave a gift to a charity 

Not everybody is in the position to make a large gift to charity while alive. However, a gift of 1% of an estate once you have died can make a huge difference to your favourite not-for-profit organisation.

In 2019, more than £3 billion was left in wills as gifts to charities like Leukaemia Care. 

There are two types of gifts left to charity: 

  • A Pecuniary Legacy which is a specific sum of money
  • A residuary gift. The residue of an estate means the money left over after all the legacies, gifts, debts and expenses of the estate, have been settled and the gift will come out of this final pot of money. Somebody may choose to leave a percentage of the residuary money, or the whole balance, to charity. 
  • The residue of an estate is the balance of the testator’s estate after the legacies, debts and expenses, such as the funeral costs, have been settled.

A testator may choose to leave a percentage of their estate to charity or the full residue.

There are also financial benefits to leaving a gift to charity in your will. A gift of this type is free from inheritance tax. If you leave more than 10% of your overall estate to charity then the total amount of inheritance tax paid reduces from 40% to 36%. 

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