Put simply, a will is there to create structure for your family in the period that follows your death. It is often all that stands between leaving them in the dark and leaving them able to process their grief without the added burden of financial complications, familial disagreements, and complicated paperwork and court procedures.
While many of us would prefer not to think about the point when we are no longer here, taking the time and space to talk things through and create a solid, workable plan is far better than giving into sleepless nights spent worrying about it. Creating a will is a healthy and practical part of life, and an essential part of planning for retirement.
Ultimately, a will is a form of protection – protection against complications with the family estate, and against the unknown and unanticipated, on behalf of our loved ones. It is one of the most important things any of us will create, and none of us can afford to delay it any longer than necessary…
What is a Will?
Broadly speaking, a will is a document that stipulates the beneficiaries of your estate, how much they stand to inherit, and in what order.
Your estate is your entire asset base – your property, bank accounts and investments are all part of your estate, but also your possessions. This includes those financially valuable possessions that first spring to mind when you think about inheritance – a classic car, for instance, or a high value collection – but also possessions that have a negligible financial value. Family photographs, old letters, sentimental objects…anything that holds significance to you, and to your loved ones.
More specifically, a will is a legal document. When valid, it must be adhered to wherever possible. Under extenuating circumstances, it can be contested and, potentially, proven to be invalid, but this is far more common when a will has been written without expert guidance – the aptly-named ‘DIY wills’.
If you die without a will (or without a valid will), then your estate will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy. These rules create a very rigid framework for inheritance – one that prioritises legal spouses and close blood relatives – which can easily exclude people who are closest to us. For instance, neither unmarried partners (even those who have lived together for many years) and your partner’s children (unless you have legally adopted them) stand to inherit under the rules of intestacy.
Wills are crucial documents, but just as crucial is ensuring that the will you write is correct, up to date, and valid. If not, the time and energy you invest into creating it could be wasted.
What a Will Can Do
Again, the value a will can bring to your family is completely dependent upon the validity of the will itself.
- Name specific legacies
This is one of the most obvious purposes a will has. Leaving specific bequeathments to your loved ones – whether money or physical possessions – or donations to charities is something that must be given appropriate space in your will, and stipulated clearly, in order to avoid trouble down the line.
- Appoint Guardians
If you have children, then wrestling with the unknowns can become all the more stressful – but, as always, the key to overcoming that anxiety is turning unknowns into concrete contingency plans.
Knowing who will take over their care – and, more importantly, knowing that they are your top choice – represents one of those vital plans. Without a will to name an appropriate guardian for your children, the decision will be left up to the courts, and may not reflect your true wishes.
- Create Trusts
Plenty of us choose to leave money to children or grandchildren, and it’s perfectly possible to make these arrangements long before they are an appropriate age to inherit those funds. By creating maintenance trusts for children, you can make certain that their inheritance is protected by law until they reach an age you deem appropriate.
- Make Provision for Your Own Beneficiaries
Plenty of people wonder what will happen to their children’s inheritances if their current partner chooses to remarry. It can complicate the family finances quite significantly and cause lasting rifts that start long before the will is even called into question.
In a will, however, you can make provision for your children (or other beneficiaries) that specifically address these complications and keep everything as it should be.
- Protect Your Share of the Property
In the UK, anyone who has an asset base (including the value of any property) that exceeds £23,250 is unlikely to qualify for financial help from the government if they need to go into care. For many people, this instantly puts their home (and their children’s inheritance) on the line – unless they have secured their property within a protective trust.
In your will, you can secure your half of the property so that, in the future – if your partner needs to go into long-term care – your beneficiaries are not left without an inheritance.
Amending an Existing Will
It is very rare that a will can be written and shelved for decades without any need for amendments or updates. As your family grows and your relationships change – for instance, following a marriage, divorce, or the death of a loved one – the need for you to change your original wishes to reflect life as it is now will always be there.
It is recommended that you review your will every two to five years. Even if your relationships remain the same as ever, the law or the value of your assets may change without you even knowing.
The right will is a form of protection. It is there to protect your assets and investments, and protect your family from complications, disagreements, and financial trouble when you are no longer there to help them directly. It will also protect them from an unnecessarily high rate of inheritance tax – something we can help you with when planning your estate…
Fingerprint Financial Planning: Will Writing Services in Kent
The only advisable way to create a will is to work with an expert – someone who understands not just the legal requirements for a watertight will, but the best ways to optimise your family’s inheritance through proper estate planning.
At Fingerprint Financial Planning, this is what we do. Offering a personal and comprehensive approach to estate planning and will writing, our team can walk you through the process now, and throughout a lifetime’s worth of changes. Contact us today to get the ball rolling.