Your “Last Will and Testament” is a legal document that sets out your wishes surrounding any assets, property, wealth, and the care of children and even pets. Depending on where you live in the UK, there are different rules governing what happens in the event that you don’t have a will at the time of death. These rules also differ regarding what recognises a will as legally binding.
We can all agree that death is a delicate and sensitive matter. According to research by Canada Life, some 13% of adults refuse to talk about death at all and don’t want to think about it. 1 in 3 people over the age of 55 don’t have a will at present, and 41% don’t consider writing a will to be a concern.
The main barriers to writing a will centre around education:
- 24% do not believe they have enough assets or wealth to warrant making a will.
- 17% believe their loved ones will automatically inherit their wealth regardless of instruction.
- 15% of people believe it is too expensive to write a will.
- 14% don’t know how to write one.
Will writing services in your employee benefits
Including free will writing services in your employee benefits packages may make them more accessible.
We have partnered with Adroit Legal Services to offer a range of will writing services. These include:
- UK-wide legal services
- Discounted will writing
- Free will reviews
- Free, no-obligation consultations
- Probate services
- A co-branded microsite and dedicated free phone number
- A single point of contact for your company
- Optional counselling and bereavement services
If you’d like to discuss adding this service to your flexible employee benefits, please get in touch with us.
We’ve created this guide to help dispel misconceptions and help educate your workforce. Education is the first step to making wills more accessible and improving uptake.
“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.
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.
Digital assets such as social media accounts and crypto have value – data is the new gold after all.”
Stacey Love, technical manager – tax, trusts and estate planning at Canada Life
First things first, who should write a will?
Everyone. Regardless of what you own, what’s in your bank, if you have dependents or pets, you should write a will. It doesn’t need to be confusing, expensive to create, or set in stone. In fact, you can change your will whenever you like, as long as you are of sound mind.
If you die without a will, your wishes may not be granted, and your loved ones may have to spend money to settle your affairs. This can be time-consuming, stressful, and costly.
What makes a will legal?
In order for your will to be legally valid you must meet the following conditions at the time of creation:
- Be aged 18 years or older
- Make it voluntarily
- Be of sound mind at the time of creation
- Formalise it in writing
- Sign it in the presence of two witnesses who are over the age of 18, who must also sign it to confirm they have witnessed
- Your witnesses must understand what is a will, your will, and the act of signing a will
- Witnesses cannot be beneficiaries of the will
- If you change your will, you need to rewrite, sign and have witnesses (they do not need to be the same ones as before)
How to store a will to protect its integrity
You can store your will at home or with a solicitor, bank, will storage company, or the National Probate Registry.
When do you need legal advice?
While it is optional to engage with a solicitor when you write a will, there are certain circumstances where you’ll find it simpler to seek legal advice. These include:
- You share a property with someone who is not your spouse or civil partner
- You want to leave any wealth or assets to someone under 18 or cannot care for themselves
- You have several family members who may make a claim on your will, such as a former spouses, or children from other relationships
- Your permanent home is outside the UK
- You own property overseas
- You own a business
What happens if you die without a will?
If you don’t have a will at the time of your death, this is referred to as ‘dying intestate’. While technically your loved ones are likely to inherit your estate without a will, there are strict rules, or laws, that determine who gets what.
Intestacy law distributes your assets using the following priority order:
- If you are married with no children, your partner inherits everything.
- If you are married with children, your partner will receive everything up to the value of £250,000 and half of anything above that. Your children will receive an equal distribution of the other half.
- If you are not married and have children, your children will receive everything split equally among them.
- If you are not married and have no children, your assets will be shared equally between one of the following groups of family members. This is done in priority order:
- Your parents
- Your siblings (or your nieces and nephews if your siblings are deceased)
- Your grandparents
- Any aunts/uncles
The biggest challenge in intestacy law is for people living with a partner they are not married to or in a civil partnership with. Based on these laws, they will not inherit anything regardless of how long they have lived together. This is the same for any non-biological children unless you have legally adopted them.
If there are no relations found, the Crown will inherit all your assets.
If you would want to leave any assets to anyone you are not related to, such as friends, you will need to write a will. If you die without one, they will not inherit or be able to make any claims on your estate. Intestacy rules cannot be challenged in the same way that you can contest a will.
What is probate?
Probate is the legal right to deal with someone’s estate after they have died. It needs to be applied for.
You may not need to apply for probate in the following circumstances:
- If the person only had savings
- They had joint shares or joint savings (by default, the surviving joint party inherits unless otherwise stated).
- They were a joint owner or tenant of land or property.
If you are the named executor of the will, you can apply for probate. If there’s no will, then the closest living relative can apply.
Free or cheap will writing services
You may have seen charities advertise their free will writing services or even DIY kits. For the most part, these are legally sound and you will be assisted by a solicitor who specialises in wills. While you are not obligated to, most charities provide this service in the hope that you’ll donate or leave a bequest to them in your will.
These services may not be suitable for you if your will is considered to be complex. For example, if you are a business owner, have overseas or multiple properties, or have many family members looking to claim your estate.
Let’s empower your employees by ensuring their wishes are properly secured
As we mentioned, the most set of reasons for not having a will, is lack of understanding:
- 15% believe it is too expensive to write a will
- 15% believe they “have enough time” (and are putting off doing it)
- 14% don’t know how to write a will
- 13% don’t want to think or talk about death
- 41% are not concerned about not having a will in place
- 51% of British people have never talked about making a will
You can make wills more accessible with workplace benefits. By offering free or cheaper will writing services, and sharing information on how and why they are important, we can help make some of the time-consuming admin of dealing with a loved one’s death one less thing to contend with.
If you’d like to discuss adding will writing services to your flexible employee benefits, please get in touch with us.