If you’re young, fit, and healthy, setting up a will probably won’t feature largely on your to-do list. But, if you own property or assets of some kind, then having a will makes life a whole lot easier for your family if something unexpected does happen to you. We look at the main reasons why it makes sense to have a will.
What is a will?
When someone passes away their assets and personal belongings are referred to as their ‘estate’. A will gives clear instructions on how you want to distribute your estate after your death and the people that you want to benefit from it. For example, you may wish to leave a sum of money to a certain family member or sentimental items such as art work or jewellery to a particular person. The will is a legal document that is signed and witnessed and cannot be changed just by crossing something out and initialling it.
As well as providing for people you care about, you can leave other instructions in your will, for example, appointing an executor to carry out your wishes, stating if you wish to donate money to charity and any funeral arrangements.
What Happens If I Don’t Have a Will?
If you don’t have a will, then doubts and difficulties can arise as to what happens to your estate after you’re deceased. This is called ‘dying intestate’ and your loved ones must prove that they were related to you or married to you by supplying the necessary birth, marriage and death certificates. This is in order for your estate to be distributed accordingly if they are a spouse or eligible relative.
Things get tricky with people who die intestate, especially if they have multiple spouses, children who are not their spouse’s, half-siblings, and first cousins. These are all deemed eligible relatives and can end up receiving a share even if it’s not what you intended. If you have no spouse or eligible relatives then your estate goes to the government.
A will speeds up the administration process so saving your family and loved ones a lot of extra anxiety and pain in their time of grief, and avoiding a breakdown in inter-family relationships.
How do I set up a will?
If you’re over 18 and of sound mind you can set up a will by visiting a solicitor or the Public Trustee which offers a free will making service. While the service is free, you may find the management of your estate much more expensive.
It’s important to update your will updated at certain stages of your life to reflect changing circumstances, such as:
- Entering into marriage or a de-facto relationship
- Getting divorced
- The birth of a child
- Purchase of assets
Postscript: 12 January 2023:
I would recommend you read the book Trial & Heirs – Famous Family Fights. This book demonstrates the effect of not preparing a will and other matters relating to managing your legacy to your family.
I have written a Book Review that explains why this book may be helpful.
Glenis Phillips SF FIN – Designer of Financial Mappers