Why it's important to have a will

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When the singer Prince died unexpectedly and without a will in place, his family was left with a potentially tricky situation – what should happen to his £200 million fortune?

The fact is though that you don’t have to be mega-rich to need a will. Everyone, however large or small their wealth, should have a will in place that states their wishes after their death.

While legal wranglings over the estates of people who die intestate can rumble on for years, a will is a very simple document to put together. It can be acted on immediately after your death and it means that your loved ones aren’t left in financial and emotional limbo.

Speaking to your family about your wishes and plans when it comes to your legacy is essential, yet research by NFU Mutual shows that over three-quarters of UK adults have not had a conversation with family about their inheritance.

As Sean McCann, a chartered financial planner, said:

“Most adults are reluctant to talk to family about how money and other wealth will be passed on after they die. Unfortunately by not talking about it bitter disputes can erupt, potentially lasting for generations.”

While none of us may exactly relish the task of sitting down and deciding who should get what when we die, it’s something that’s relatively simple and cheap to set in place.

Protecting your family

Writing a will is crucial if you have children or other family who depend on you financially.

A will makes it much easier for your family or friends to sort everything out while respecting your wishes. Without a will the process can leave your loved ones short and with a lot of stress.

The law will take over

When you die without a will, a standard process will be triggered where everything you own will be shared out in a way defined by the law – which isn’t always the way you might want.

Tax benefits

A will can help reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax that might be payable on the value of the property and money you leave behind.

You can start simple

You could write a simple will yourself, although the majority of people seek advice from a solicitor, a specialist will writer, a bank or building society, or use an online will writing service.

If you and a spouse or partner have the same wishes you can choose to write identical or mirror wills. If you have them written at the same time it’s the cheapest way to do it.

If you do decide to write a DIY will, make sure the document is correctly signed and witnessed and has no errors or alterations. Number each page and don’t leave any blank spaces.

The best option for you depends on how complicated your wishes are:

  • simple will: can cost between £144 and £240
  • complex will: can cost between £150 and £300. It may be more complex as you have been divorced and have children
  • specialist will: that involves trusts or oversea properties, or you want tax planning advice – expect to pay a minimum of £500 to £600 according to Which?
  • you can buy a template document in stationery shops for as little as £10

It’s also a good idea to talk to your loved ones about your wishes. Talking to family about inheritance plans can help manage expectations and avoid painful and potentially costly disputes, so do it while you can and save your loved ones from further unnecessary heartache.

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