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What Exactly is a Will?

The majority of people know that they should have a Will, but a lot of people don’t know exactly what a Will is and how it works. The actual process of writing a Will is a relatively straightforward and inexpensive one. Yet despite this, the majority of people in the UK die without a Will in place.

Essentially, a Will is a legal document to ensure your money and estate is inherited by the people you want to benefit and, of equal importance, doesn’t go to people who you don’t want to benefit. If you pass away without a Will in place, you are said to have passed away “intestate”. According to UK intestacy rules, those who you would have liked to provide for can receive little or nothing. You must also set out in your Will what happens if the people you want to benefit die before you.

Having a Will in place could also help to minimise Inheritance Tax; it may be payable by your estate on assets over £325k. This will then reduce the amount passed on to your beneficiaries. Even though some may believe this is too large a sum of money to be affected, it is worth sitting down and working out what your estate would be worth if you were to die today. Take into account your house, car, furniture, savings, and any personal belongings - plus any death benefits under life policies or pensions.

A Will is essential to people who have children under the age of 18, as it allows you to appoint guardians who will be responsible for your children’s upbringing if both parents die. It will also give them the legal right to look after the children’s inheritance in trust.

A Will can also establish who will manage your affairs after death (your executor), who will inherit your family heirlooms/legacies, how money will be distributed to your charity of choice, your funeral wishes, and trusts. You need to make sure your Will is formally witnessed and signed in order to make it legally valid, and if you need to update it you will have to make an official alteration (known as a ‘codicil’) or, alternatively, make a new Will.

By preparing and taking responsibility for the inevitable, you can help avoid any disagreement and confusion amongst those left behind, which can often result in unnecessary stress and costly legal bills.