So you’ve heard that having a will is a grown-up thing to have, but you’re not entirely sure how to even go about sorting one out (or even if you actually need one?).
Then you go to buy a house, and the mortgage broker tells you that you need to sort one out, and they can help you do it….
…this is great! But before you do, let’s talk through a few things first so you don’t get your fingers burnt. I’ve also asked UK money bloggers for their tips on will-writing which I will reference throughout to help you in the process – starting with Jane Berry of Shoestring Cottage. She says; “just do one! Some of my parents friends have died recently with no will at all, causing so much stress for family members”. www.shoestringcottage.com
So with that advice in mind, let’s dive in to find out what you need to know.
Why Is Having A Will A Good Idea?
Let me tell you a story of a woman I looked after once when I worked in a hospital. She was in her early 30s when she found out she had metastatic bowel cancer. Following the diagnosis, she had surgery, and chemo and radiotherapy, but it was not working and sadly she was told that she would die within the next 6 months.
She had 2 children under the age of 5 and a husband who she had recently got married to.
This is heartbreaking enough, but she then had a reaction to the chemotherapy treatment and suffered a cardiac arrest. The ambulance crew managed to revive her but she was severely brain damaged and ended up needing 24/7 nursing care until she eventually died from the cancer.
She didn’t have a will in place. Neither did she have in place a plan for what to do if she became brain-damaged and needed round the clock nursing care for all her needs (advanced directive).
This caused HUGE amounts of stress for everyone involved, including the health care staff who could see how distressed the entire family had become from the ordeal.
At the point where she became incapacitated, she would not have been able to put a will or an advanced directive in place, because you have to be “in sound mind” to do both. By not sorting this out, her remaining months were agonising, and when she eventually died, it took longer than it should have done to sort out her entire estate, causing further stress for her family.
Dying Without A Will
This is called Intestacy and means that how your money and other assets are distributed comes down to what the law says – and this might not be what you actually want!
For example, let’s say you’re married and have children with this person, but you’re separated and the children live with you. You also have a lovely new partner that you’re very happy with. Then tragedy happens and you die. Presumably you’d want your kids and your new partner to inherit your money right?
According to the UK Government Inheritance Tool:
The husband, wife or civil partner keeps all the assets (including property), up to £250,000, and all the personal possessions, whatever their value.
The remainder of the estate will be shared as follows:
- the husband, wife or civil partner gets an absolute interest in half of the remainder
- the other half is then divided equally between the surviving children
If a son or daughter (or other child where the deceased had a parental role) has already died, their children will inherit in their place.
So your ex-hubby gets the majority of YOUR cash, and only a small part goes to your children. And what about your new partner?
A surviving partner who wasn’t married or in a civil partnership with the deceased has no automatic right to inherit.
So having a will is ESSENTIAL if you want to be SPECIFIC about who gets what. If you die without, the law makes the decision, and if they can’t figure out who gets the money, guess who gets it? THE GOVERNMENT.
So How Do You Set One Up?
I asked the UK Money Blogging Community what their best tips were to setting up a will.
It turns out that there are LOADS of options for writing a will! To start with, the money advice service has a handy guide you could take a look at, but I’ll write the highlights here for you and share with you what the money bloggers said.
Off the shelf
You can buy will-writing packages off the shelf in places like WHSmith or Amazon*. It may be a good idea for you if things are super simple in your financial life, but make sure you know what you’re doing and keep in mind that things can change. It would be a disaster if you wrote yourself a will, only for it not to do the very thing you wanted it to.
Clare Roach of Daily Deals Blog says; “If you want to save some money on your will and are confident doing it yourself, there’s some great apps on the market now that you can create one on. Once completed they are emailed to you so you can print them off. It’s a good way to avoid solicitors costs”. https://www.dailydealsblog.co.uk
I did a little digging into this myself, and found a company called Beyond who offer online will writing. They help you write a will online in a really simple way. I tried it out and was impressed by how easy it was! Word of warning though – they give you the option of them being the executor of the will. It’s better to choose someone you trust to do this for you instead if you can because having professionals as your executor can really mount up in fees and commissions which is a MASSIVE HEADACHE and potentially a financial disaster!
Faith Archer gives a great tip! “If you want to save money, many charities offer a free will writing service by solicitors, hoping that in return you’ll include a donation to the charity. There’s also Free Wills Month during March and October, with limited appointments with local solicitors for people over 55, and Will Aid during November”. www.muchmorewithless.co.uk
Pete Chatfield also offered advice on freebies; “some trade unions (such as the PCS) offer a free will writing service which can be done online or by post”. www.householdmoneysaving.com
Using a solicitor
Catherine Morgan of The Money Panel has a different approach to DIY. She says “Don’t write it yourself! Use a regulated solicitor who is regulated by the law society. Will writers can pop up all over the place and not be qualified at all! It’s such an important area to get right so make sure you do your homework”. https://www.themoneypanel.co.uk
It’s definitely worth checking out if the professional you’re using is regulated so you don’t get caught out!
And to add to that tip, Sara Williams says; “never put a professional (bank, solicitor) in as an executor. Put a friend or family member and tell them they can pay to get any professional help they need from the estate. This way there is some control of what the charges and timescales are. And never pay for will storage – rip-off costs”. https://debtcamel.co.uk/
What Goes In A Will?
Wills contain all sorts of information – from how to split your money and property, to who you want caring for your children.
Emma Bradley says; “think about the unthinkable, where would your children live if the worst happened. Talk about it now and confirm with family or whoever that they would be willing and able to support your children. When writing ours I was pushed on the fact that grandparents may not be able to look after children due to age etc so what then… it’s a hard process but essential”. www.mumssavvysavings.com
Hollie Hutchinson followed this up with some sound advice: “if a parent dies and the family don’t agree who should care for the child, eg there is a living parent who is an ex partner, it is a judge in family court who decides where the child or children should be placed. You should see this part of the will as just an expression of preference”. www.thriftymum.com
You can also bequeath items like special jewellery or other items of significance.
Scott Dixon says; “write a Letter of Wishes for the executors. Whilst it is not legally binding, it provides guidance for the executors to deal with various things that a will cannot possibly cover such as distribution of various personal items and what you would like doing after your death. Make sure the executors have a copy each and keep it updated as well”. www.thegrumpygit.com
However, if you want to specify what happens to you in certain medical conditions, then you’ll need a different document called an advanced directive.
There were so many fab tips, I had to share them all….
Joleisa Creed says; “Remember to update it when your circumstances change e.g. death of spouse or child etc” https://joleisa.com
Emma Maslin says; “when you marry, any previous will becomes invalid. This becomes quite important for people who are re-marrying but may have wishes to leave their estate to children from the first marriage”.
Tuppenny’s Fireplace says; “share the outline details of your wills with your next of kin/kids etc and have an open discussion. Too many families fall out over money and wills and you don’t want that for your family.
Also, ensure your executors and next of kin have the contact details of the solicitors/firm where your wills are lodged. And keep a note in your financial papers”. https://tuppennysfireplace.com/
And finally, Lynn James wants you to know how easy it is!
“it was so simple. I used an online provider who helped me to think of everything, right down to who gets my designer handbags and what happens to Trev (the cat)”. www.mrsmummypenny.co.uk
Don’t let this be a limiting step for you and your family. Do it now while you can….yes it’s not a nice thought contemplating what happens after your death, but it will save your family a whole heap of trouble when the moment is needed.