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What is a will?

Everybody’s heard of them but there’s a lot of confusion around wills. Basically a will is a legal document that ensures your estate ends up with the people that you choose.

If you do not have a will, the government will choose where your estate goes. It’s a really simple document that needs to be done properly to be effective. But it carries a lot of weight  and is very important.

Who needs a will and when do you need to think about getting one?

In short, everybody needs one and you need it as soon as possible. As we all know, anything could happen at any time. We all read the news – there are unexpected deaths and accidents every day. Nobody knows when they’re going to go.

We would all like to assume that we will go when we’re old, but that’s not necessarily the case. So it’s never too early to sort out a will – but it can be too late.

Everybody with property, with children, or with any sort of possessions should be thinking about getting their will in place.

What are the reasons to have a will?

The main reason is to ensure that your estate and any of your belongings, property, cash and possessions of sentimental or family value go to the people that you want them to. You don’t want them to fall into the wrong hands.

But another big reason is to take the pressure off the family. Once you’re gone they can simply pick up this document and just follow it. So there are no questions, no confusion, no ambiguity. It saves a lot of time and hassle.

Probate will be granted more quickly and it can save arguments as well. By just putting a document in place you gain peace of mind and make your family’s life that bit easier when the time comes.

You can also include your funeral wishes and whether you want to donate your organs. That may not be a conversation you’ve actually had with anybody, but you may feel strongly one way or the other. Including it in your will means the family doesn’t have to have a big discussion – it’s there in black and white.

What happens to my estate if I don’t have a will?

About two thirds of the population don’t have a will so this happens a lot – and that’s why we see a lot of disputes in the family courts.

If you don’t have a will your estate would be settled using the ‘rules of intestacy,’ which means it would be up to the state to decide who gets your possessions and your money.

It depends on your circumstances: if you’re married, if you have children, if you still have living parents or siblings… There is a big long list of people that could receive your estate, in a set order. It reaches into extended families including aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews – and then if they exhaust all of those then your estate would go to the Crown.

Some people don’t have a big family and there isn’t anybody to leave it to. In that case everything goes to the Crown. That might suit some people, who might not really care. But I think the majority of people do care and would rather it go to a worthy cause. I’ve dealt with a lot of single people with no family who have left everything to charities they have an affinity with. They want their money to do some good.

Wills aren’t regulated – what does this mean?

They’re not regulated in the same way that financial products are, but they are governed by a code of practice that any reputable firm would adhere to. I myself am a member of the Society of Will Writers who set guides and rules so that everything is checked. Our wills are verified and governed, they are just not regulated in the same sense as financial products and other professional services.

Where should I store my will?

There is only one legal, valid copy of a will. If you lose that then your estate would be subject to the rules of intestacy. Even if there were 40 copies of it around, they are not valid.

We would suggest putting your will in a fireproof bag, or you can pay for storage. Lots of companies offer that – we do at a cost, of course. The most important thing is obviously to let your executives know where your will is.

It’s all well and good putting one in place, but if nobody can find it then it’s no use. Hide it somewhere safe in your fireproof bag and let people know where to find it. Or if you are going to pay for storage – which is super safe and probably the best option – again you need to let people know who has it.

What’s the cost of having a will written?

Prices start from £150, which is a small price to pay for the peace of mind that it brings and to lessen the burden on your family. I actually paid for my parents to have a will, because it’s in my interests to make sure that it is done properly.

It also means that their estate goes where they want to go. I’ve paid for it because I want that peace of mind. This document is going to hopefully last a long time and its value far outweighs the cost.

What are the dangers of writing my own will?

You can absolutely write your own will, just like you can cut your own hair. You can fix your own car. You can do your own plumbing. But personally I would rather pay somebody who knew exactly what they were doing.

If you wrote your own will but didn’t get it witnessed and signed properly, then it’s null and void. People don’t always know the correct procedure for doing that. They don’t know how many trustees are required to deal with property, for example.

There have been instances where people have written their own will but it hasn’t been clear. One person reads it one way, someone else reads it another way. When we write these wills professionally we add layers and layers so that it stands the test of time. These documents need to last as long as possible.

Your will needs to consider, for example, the chance that your children could predecease you. A lot of people just think that their children will get everything – and hopefully they will. But in some circumstances, sadly, they’re not there to receive it. That’s why we name a few layers of potential beneficiaries.

The cost of writing a professional will and having that document legally sound will give you the peace of mind you want. I would always advise to get a professional involved so there’s no danger of anything going wrong.

How do I go about arranging a will?

A reputable will writer such as myself can easily guide you through the process. It really is straightforward and it doesn’t take long. We don’t ask a lot of complicated questions, although some estates are more complex than others.

For the majority of people it’s an easy process and people are always a little surprised – they often say that it wasn’t as painful as they expected, and that they should have done it years ago. It’s not hard or complicated – it just needs doing, so get it done.

If anybody’s got any queries or questions please get in touch. I’m happy to answer any questions, any time: that’s what I’m here for.

Will writing is not part of the Openwork offering and is offered in our own right. Openwork Limited accepts no responsibility for this aspect of our business. Will writing is not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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