Why make a Will?
You are under no legal obligation to make a will. Over 60% of people don't make one and those who do usually
only do so when an event happens to make them think about it. However it can never be too soon to make a will only
too late. Making a will resolves a lot of issues most of us would not wish to burden our family and friends with
when we die.
The following are the main benefits of making a valid will.
Choose who inherits your estate
Many people fail to make a will because they believe their estate will simply pass to their spouse or children
if they die. This is not the case.
If you do not have a valid will you are deemed to have died intestate and your estate becomes subject to the
Laws of Intestacy. In other words the government will decide who inherits your possessions, property and money. Who
inherits your estate will be decided by the Law of Intestacy (1925) and not as you would probably choose.
By making a will you can choose exactly who gets what and how much. This can be everything from personal
belongings to cars, property and even pets. It also prevents arguments amongst family members, relatives and
friends if there is a clear expression of your wishes in a valid will.
Avoid the Laws of Intestacy
If you die leaving no valid will your estate will be distributed in accordance with the Laws of Intestacy. The
flowchart at the bottom of this page shows who will inherit your estate if you die without leaving a will.
Making a valid will avoid the Laws of Intestacy ensuring your estate passes to the people you wish to receive
it, your named beneficiaries.
Help reduce Inheritance Tax
Inheritance tax is the tax paid to the government on your estate when you die. Your estate is everything that
you own at the time of your death, including property, cars, cash, life insurance, pensions, personal possessions
etc. Most people are worth far more dead than they realise as they often fail to take into account life insurance
and benefits from employers.
Writing a will may allow you to reduce the amount of inheritance tax you pay or even possibly eliminate it
altogether. Certain things can be given to particular people and organisations without inheritance tax being
charged on them. This then allows you to provide more money for the people you want to receive it rather than
paying it to the tax man. You can read more about this on our Inheritance Tax
Reduce problems for those left
If you die without a valid will you will almost certainly cause problems and even financial difficulties for
those you leave behind.
Firstly, your next of kin may not even know whether or not you have made a will. This means that they will
probably have to spend time and money looking for one. Not only should you make a valid will but you should ensure
that your beneficiaries and executors are aware of that fact and know where it is deposited.
If it transpires that you have not made a will, or they cannot find a will, they would be required to go through
the courts in an attempt to gain the power to deal with your estate. If you had made a will, and they know where it
is kept, this would not be necessary. Your executors can simply apply for probate.
In addition the delay in gaining access to your assets will mean that your family must bear all costs
personally. They would have to pay for your funeral and could be liable to pay all Inheritance Tax due from their
own pockets. Making a will dramatically speeds up the probate system meaning money can be released from your estate
far earlier to meet these costs.
Probate under the Intestacy Laws can take up to two years meaning that loans are often required to pay
Inheritance tax due. Even when your next of kin do reach the point where they have access to your estate, they
would have to distribute according to the Laws of Intestacy.
Choose legal guardians for
If you have children who are below the legal age to live alone, preparing a will is especially important. In
your will you can appoint specific guardians to care for your children in the event of your death. If you fail to
do so the authorities will do so on your behalf, in the way they see fit. Often they do not choose the people you
would have personally chose to care for your children. This can be distressing for the children, as well as other
family members, at a particularly difficult time. In some situations this means that a partner (who you are not
married to) is not granted guardianship, even though they are the natural father.
Choose your own executors
Your executor is the person or people you appoint to administer your estate after you die. If you prepare a
valid will you can appoint your own executors. If you die without a will your executors will be appointed by the
Even if you do prepare a will choose your executors carefully. Good decisions made by executors can reflect
financially, for example on the amount of tax paid on the estate. They can affect less easily measurable benefits,
like the speed with which the estate is dealt with, and the stress generated or harmony promoted in what is
invariably a difficult time.
Setting up Trusts for
Sometimes it can be a good idea to set up trusts for your children’s inheritance as this allows you some control
over your money once you pass away. It is possible for you to lay down certain terms to help protect assets from
It can be particularly useful if you need to make long term financial provisions for handicapped children.
Make Charity donations
You may wish to leave a donation or perhaps an item to your favourite charity. If you have a valid you can
specify the amount and the charity concerned. If you die intestate no such donations would be made.
Charitable donations can be particularly useful if you have no children or family as bequests avoid your estate
passing to the crown. Also any legacy you leave will be free from tax.
Choose your own
When writing a will you can make your preferences for your funeral clear. This can include whether you want to
be cremated or buried. You can also state where you would like the funeral to take place, and any specific hymns or
readings you would like included at the funeral service. An additional benefit is that having a will speeds up the
probate process thus releasing funds faster to pay for the funeral without the cost having to be borne by your
family or friends.
Choosing an executor for your will (BBC)