Planning 101 20th October 2013

Why it is important to make a will

It is important for you to make a will! You may not consider yourself to have many possessions or much money but, nonetheless, this is vital document that you must make.

The reasons behind making a will

Making a willIf you die without a will, there are certain rules which dictate how the money, property or possessions should be allocated. This may not be the way that you would have wished your money and possessions to be distributed. Also, it may be possible to reduce the amount of tax payable on the inheritance if advice is taken in advance and a will is made. Married couples with children under 18 should also consider what arrangements they want to make if either one or both of them die.

There is no need for a will to be drawn up by a solicitor. If you wish to make a will yourself, you can do so. However, you should only consider doing this if the will is going to be straightforward. It is easy to make mistakes and, if there are errors in the will, this can cause problems after your death. Sorting out misunderstandings and disputes may result in considerable legal costs, which will reduce the amount of money in the estate. It is best, therefore, to seek legal advice or contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

When a will has been made, it is important to keep it up to date and to take account of changes in circumstances. It is advisable for you to reconsider the contents of a will regularly to make sure that it still reflects your wishes. The most common changes of circumstances which affect a will are: getting married or remarried; getting divorced or separated; the birth or adoption of children.

There are some circumstances when it is particularly advisable to use a solicitor. These are where:

You share a property with someone who is not your husband or wife.
You wish to make provision for a dependant who is unable to care for themselves.
There are several family members who may make a claim on the will, for example, a second wife or children from a first marriage.
Your permanent home is not in the United Kingdom.
You are not a British citizen.
You are a resident here but there are overseas property involved, or a business is involved.

Changing your will

If you want to change your will, you must not do this by amending the original will after it has been signed and witnessed. Any obvious alterations on the face of the will are assumed to have been made at a later date and so do not form a part of the original legally valid will.

The only way you can change a will is by making a codicil to the will or making a new will. A codicil is a supplement to a will which makes some alterations but leaves the rest of it intact. This might be done, for example, to increase a cash legacy, change an executor or guardian named in a will, or to add beneficiaries. It must be signed by the person who made the will and be witnessed in the same way. However, the witnesses do not have to be the same as for the original will.

There is no limit on how many codicils can be added to a will, but they are only suitable for very straightforward changes. If a complicated change is involved, it is usually advisable to make a new will.

Other Timeless Advice you might like to read:
‘The Key to a Successful Marriage’
‘House Buying’