23/02/2024

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Half of Britons don’t have a will: Here’s why it’s important to make one – and how to do it

Half of Britons don’t have a will: Here’s why it’s important to make one – and how to do it

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Half of British adults don’t have a will, according to new research, with many thinking that they don’t have the necessary wealth to merit making one.

The research by pension and insurance company Canada Life found that more than two fifths of Britons had no concerns about not having a will, while almost one in six had no intention to make one in the future. 

People are generally more concerned as they get older, but it found that one in three adults aged 55 and over still had not made a will.

Half of Britons don’t have a will: Here’s why it’s important to make one – and how to do it

Half of Britons don’t have a will: Here’s why it’s important to make one – and how to do it

A quarter of Britons without a Will don’t think they have enough wealth to require them to make one.

When asked why they hadn’t done so, a quarter of people said they felt they didn’t have sufficient assets or wealth, while almost one in five said they thought their loved ones would automatically inherit their wealth.

Other popular reasons for not making a will included not being able to afford to make one, the belief that they have plenty of time to make one, not knowing how to write one, and not wanting to think or talk about death.

We look at why it is important to make a will, how to do it and what should be included. 

Why do you need to make a will?

Making a will is not just about choosing who receives a share of your wealth after death.

For a start, dying without a will is likely to leave loved ones with a mountain of bureaucracy as they attempt to track down where your savings, investments and loans are.

And the common assumption that everything will automatically pass to loved ones is not always accurate.

Last wishes: Having a will is the best way to have a say on what happens when you die

Last wishes: Having a will is the best way to have a say on what happens when you die

Last wishes: Having a will is the best way to have a say on what happens when you die

Many couples forget that under the current succession laws in England and Wales, an unmarried cohabitee has no automatic rights under the intestacy rules. A valid will is essential to make sure assets pass to the surviving partner as they are intended to.

A will is also an invaluable tool for single parents with small children, to ensure those children are taken care of by the people they trust to look after them.

Without these provisions in a will, it’s possible the courts may decide who should have parental responsibility.

Stacey Love, technical manager for tax, trusts and estate planning at Canada Life says: ‘It’s a shame that people still believe that making a will is a challenging process.

‘At any age, dying without a valid will in place can be a huge burden on your loved ones at a time when they may already be vulnerable and struggling to cope.’

Since the tax-free allowance was raised to £325,000 in 2009, the amount of inheritance tax the Government pockets has more than doubled

Since the tax-free allowance was raised to £325,000 in 2009, the amount of inheritance tax the Government pockets has more than doubled

Since the tax-free allowance was raised to £325,000 in 2009, the amount of inheritance tax the Government pockets has more than doubled

‘Even if you are young, getting a will drafted, signed, and witnessed should be on your bucket list, even if you don’t think you have any real wealth to pass on,’ adds Love.

‘Even digital assets such as social media accounts and crypto could have value – data is the new gold after all.’

For many people, writing a will may also be sensible if their estate could be subject to inheritance tax. 

Assets passed on death to a spouse have no inheritance tax liability, but if they pass them on to someone else they eat into their IHT-free allowance, above which tax is 40 per cent. 

At present, anyone can pass on £325,000 of cash and assets tax-free. 

Married couples and civil partners can pass on their unused allowance to their surviving partner, allowing the IHT free amount to be doubled up to £650,000.

If they give away their main home to their children (including adopted or foster children, or grandchildren) then this threshold can increase to £500,000.

So for a married couple with children, it is possible to pass on £1million in total.

Where to make a will

This will depend on personal preference, how much someone is willing to spend and the complexity of their financial affairs.

Many charities offer a ‘free’ will service – although that usually comes with an expectation of leaving a legacy to the charity.

Some retailers also sell ‘will packs’ which enable people to do it themselves – but they still need to get the document witnessed when they sign it.

Most solicitors offer low-fee deals on their will drafting services, and their employer may offer a third-party will service for their employees.

There are also online will companies, such as Farewill* which offer a quicker, simpler and more cost-effective way of dividing up an estate than the traditional process.

Online service Farewill is a relatively cost-effective way for Britons to make a will online

Online service Farewill is a relatively cost-effective way for Britons to make a will online

Online service Farewill is a relatively cost-effective way for Britons to make a will online

Farewill has a 4.9 star rating on Trustpilot from more than 13,000 reviews.

It charges £90 to create an online will, or £140 for couples. Alternatively it is possible to do this over the telephone for £240, or for £380 as a couple.

The upfront cost includes a year of unlimited changes, meaning it is possible to update it anytime in the first 12 months.

Following that, it’s possible to continue making updates for just £10 a year. 

What should be included in a will?

A will should list all the people or any charities who will be left money or possessions after death. It should also clarify who will look after any children under the age of 18.

It will also appoint executors. These are the people who will sort out the estate and carry out the wishes of the will.

It will also typically include a register of assets, which includes all bank accounts, investments, pensions and insurance policies, for example, to avoid families having to struggle to untangle someone’s finances.

Listing out your assets ensures that everything is easy to find when you're gone

Listing out your assets ensures that everything is easy to find when you're gone

Listing out your assets ensures that everything is easy to find when you’re gone

How do my relatives find out about my will after I die?

Having made a will, a sensible thing to do is tell a close friend or family member about where it can be found.

Those who use a solicitor to create a will, should also ensure they and your executors hold copies.

It is also possible to register a will using a national will registration company such as Certainty. For anyone unable to locate a loved one’s original will, these are good places to start.

‘Once you’ve completed your will, don’t just sit back and forget about it,’ adds Love.  ‘Talk to your family, let them know where it is being kept.

‘Also make sure to review it every couple of years – family circumstances change over time, and you need to make sure your will evolves too.

‘It’s human nature that we don’t want to think about death but writing a will can be a huge weight off yours and your loved one’s shoulders.

‘Don’t be afraid of having an open conversation about it with those you want to leave an inheritance to.

‘A professional financial or legal adviser will also be invaluable for offering independent advice and guidance.’

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