The risks of failing to write a Will

A scheme is being run aimed at keeping will writing costs down.

Most people will want to ensure that their loved ones are left with a secure financial future.

Yet, a huge majority of people under the age of 55 have yet to write a will, according to new figures from the Law Society.

DIY wills

Jonathan Smithers says that people need to think about using a professional for a will

It is possible to write a will without paying a solicitor. Anyone aged 18 or over, and has the mental capacity to do so, can write a valid will. It must be dated and witnessed correctly and state that it replaces all previous versions. Old versions have to be destroyed.

But Jonathan Smithers, from the Law Society, warns that DIY wills have their drawbacks.

"If you have an expensive car, you don't give it to your neighbour to service; you take it to a dealer or a garage to get done properly. [Writing a will properly] is about making sure that your assets are left to your nearest and dearest," he says.

There is no way of checking it has been done correctly if written by an individual on their own, he warns.

There are other low-cost alternatives. Templates are available online and from stationery stores, but Mr Smithers warns that these, too, do not have any cross-checking from a professional.

The cost of writing a will rises when the paperwork becomes more specialist or complicated. For example, wills that include setting up trusts for young children need to be written by a professional and will cost more.

Will findings:

  • 73% of 16 to 54-year-olds do not have a will
  • 23% of those asked believe without a will their possessions will automatically go to their family
  • 34% of those without a will do not have one because they do not believe they have anything worth leaving

Source: The Law Society

The survey by the Law Society suggests that more than a third of those who do not have a will think they have not got anything worth leaving when they die and so don't get a will written up. However, many are mistaken, says Nick Hall, of law firm Lester Aldridge.

"For younger clients, their life assurance, if they have it, can be quite a substantial sum if they die young or unexpectedly. So there are assets that they are probably not aware of" he says.

Motivation

Mr Hall also says that many of the clients he sees do not realise that their pensions are an asset that can be inherited by loved ones.

The government gathered an estimated £8m from estates where no wills were left behind last year.

There are also cases when families miss out when people die without a will.

The partners of those who are not married or in a civil partnership cannot inherit without a will. Arrangements are also needed for young children, especially if both parents die at the same time.

Another key reason that motivates people to write a will is to reduce the amount of tax payable on the inheritance.

Mr Hall says that anyone who decides to get a will needs to sit down and list their assets. This makes it easier to allocate what is being left behind.

The next step is to think about executors. They are responsible for carrying out the individuals wishes and sort out the estate. They will also need to know where the will has been kept.

Mr Smithers believes it is important to keep a will up to date. Any change of circumstances, such as a new marriage, need to be updated to ensure assets are left to the correct people.