Why you must make a will

AP Photo/Scott Heppell

Want to know something terrifying? In the UK 60 percent of people die intestate. That means they don't leave a will behind them, and their estate is distributed according to a strict set of laws, rather than as they would have wanted.

Many of us know who we want to receive our assets, but plenty of us also naively think they'll end up in the right hands even if we don't make a will. Here are just a few reasons why it's so important to make a will, and how you can get one without spending a fortune.

1. To avoid Inheritance Tax

Starting off with the purely financial reasons - without a will, if your estate (that is all your worldly possessions including your home) is worth more than £325,000 then the amount over this threshold will be taxed a whopping 40 percent!

Of course if you make a will you can minimise the amount of tax payable on your estate, leaving more for your loved ones.

2. No matter your age

It might seem like something you only need to think about when you reach middle age, but at the risk of sounding morbid, you never know what will happen to you, so you should be prepared.

Jill Dando was just 38 when she was murdered, but she died intestate, meaning her estate was left solely to her father without provision for any other loved ones or charities, and leaving him with the difficult decision of how to carry out her wishes.

3. If you are unmarried but have a partner and/or children

This is a really tough one. Unfortunately the law does not recognise your partner as next of kin regardless of how long you have been together, meaning that without a will they have no automatic right to a penny of your estate.

Similarly if you have children with your partner, they will not necessarily become the custodian. And even more importantly if you are a single parent a will allows you to appoint a legal guardian for your children should the worst happen, without it you risk leaving them in a very vulnerable position.

So how to make a will?

As you've hopefully gathered the rules of intestacy are complex and not always logical. Don't risk leaving your family with the added trauma of having to fight for their entitlements to your estate - make sure your money is going where you want it to and write a will.

November is 'Make a Will Month' when Will Aid works with other well-loved UK charities and solicitors. Essentially participating solicitors offer to waive their fee for writing a basic will and instead ask you to make a donation to one of the charities.

It makes writing a will more affordable, gives you peace of mind and raises millions of pounds for charity. Find out more about the scheme here.
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