The importance of writing a will
- Leanne Lancaster
- 14 July 2023
- 10 mins reading time
Writing a will is an essential task that often gets overlooked. Many people believe it's something they can address later in life, but the reality is that having a will brings numerous benefits, regardless of age or wealth.
In our Family and Finances Report, research found that 31% of 35 to 59-year-olds did not have a will in place and had no plans to do so. Worryingly, 19% of over 60’s also haven’t written a will. This could result in confusion and uncertainty for family members when a loved one dies at what is already a stressful and upsetting time.
Read our Family and Finances report here.
There are many advantages of writing a will. Here are just six ways writing a will could offer you valuable peace of mind as well as protection for your loved ones.
1. Clarity and control
Creating a will allows you to clearly express your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets and property after you pass away. By outlining who should inherit what, you maintain control over your estate, ensuring your wishes are honoured.
This is particularly important for individuals with complex family situations or specific preferences on asset distribution.
2. Protection for loved ones
Writing a will provides protection and financial security for your loved ones, such as a spouse, children, or other dependents. By designating beneficiaries, you can guarantee that your assets are distributed as you intended, safeguarding your family's future well-being.
Without a will, the distribution of assets becomes subject to the intestacy rules, which may not align with your wishes.
For more information regarding who inherits if someone dies intestate visit www.gov.uk/inherits-someone-dies-without-will.
3. Minimise family disputes
A well-drafted will can help prevent potential disputes and conflicts among family members. By clearly stating your intentions, you reduce the likelihood of disagreements regarding asset distribution. Your financial assets cover anything of notable value, including property (your house and other physical items of value), savings, investments and pensions.
This can alleviate stress and tension during an already difficult time, preserving family relationships and harmony.
4. Guardianship for minor children
If you have children under the age of 18, a will enables you to name guardians for them. By specifying your preferred guardians, you ensure that your children are cared for by someone you trust and consider suitable. Failing to address guardianship in a will can result in legal complexities and uncertainties about who will assume responsibility for your children.
5. Tax planning
Writing a will allows for effective tax planning, which can potentially reduce the inheritance tax liability on your estate. Your estate covers all of your money, possessions, investments and property. Collectively, these are known as your assets.
The standard rate of inheritance tax (IHT) is currently set at 40 percent. The threshold is £325,000. So, if your estate is worth less than this amount (known as being below the nil-rate band), then there will be no IHT for your family to pay when you die.
Married couples and civil partners can inherit their spouse’s entire estate tax free. They can also add any of their spouse’s unused IHT allowance to their own to increase the potential nil-rate band of their estate.
Professional advice can help you navigate complex tax laws and explore strategies to minimise tax burdens, enabling you to pass on more of your assets to your loved ones.
6. Charitable contributions
If you have philanthropic intentions, a will enables you to support causes and charities that hold personal significance. By including charitable donations in your will, you leave a lasting impact on organisations that align with your values, promoting positive change even after your passing.
Seeking professional advice
Although you can download a basic template for a will online or purchase one from the post office, these may not provide you with the level of detail you require. Writing a will yourself without professional support could potentially lead to issues. These could include something known as ‘sideways disinheritance’. This is where one person in a relationship passes whilst their partner lives. If the remaining person remarries, the previous joint assets could potentially get distributed amongst the ‘new’ family or, at worst, to the kids of the new partner thereby cutting the original beneficiaries out of the will altogether.
There are many benefits to seeking professional estate planning advice to ensure your will is legally sound and accurately reflects your intentions. By taking this important step, you can achieve peace of mind, knowing that your legacy and loved ones will be taken care of according to your wishes.
In other words, it’s not just about having a will, it’s about having the right will for you.
Remember, that setting up a will is only part of the story. It is worth reviewing the contents of your will every few years or following a major life event such as a marriage, divorce, or birth of child/grandchild, to make sure it remains fit for purpose.
Regardless of age, it is important to prioritise writing a will. The benefits are undeniable, ranging from maintaining control over asset distribution to protecting loved ones and minimising family disputes.
Any views expressed are our in-house views as at the time of publishing.
This content may not be used, copied, quoted, circulated, or otherwise disclosed (in whole or part) without our prior written consent.
Tax treatment depends on the individual circumstances of each client and may be subject to change in the future.
If you need will writing or Power of Attorney services, your adviser can introduce you to specialists in these areas as Schroders Personal Wealth do not provide these services. If you need estate administration or trust management services, your adviser can refer you to Lloyds Bank or Bank of Scotland. Certain areas of these services (for example will writing and Power of Attorney) are not regulated by the FCA and you should refer to the provider's literature for confirmation.
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