Having a valid will is arguably one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family, and dying without a will can cause significant problems for the people you leave behind. Around 180,000 people a year die without making a will, which is a shocking 56% of all UK deaths. Not only can a will legally protect your spouse, children and assets, it can also spell out exactly how you would like things to be handled after you have passed on. Whilst we know that each person's situation varies, here are our top seven reasons to have a will, in no particular order.
Decide how your estate will be distributed between your loved ones who may not benefit unless you name them in your will. If you die "intestate", or without having written a will, the rules of intestacy will decide who receives your estate. For example, unmarried partners are at risk of inheriting nothing from your estate and could be forced out of your home.
Make an informed decision on the care of your children and pets, choosing someone who will be willing to take on this responsibility, and love and care for them in the same way you would if you were still alive. If you do not state who you would like to appoint as guardian, the courts and social services will decide and your children may go into care.
Minimise or even eliminate estate taxes to ensure that your loved ones receive the maximum possible benefit from your estate. Certain things can be given to particular people and organisations without incurring any inheritance tax, allowing you to provide more money for your loved ones rather than paying it to the taxman.
Give gifts to charity, either in the form of money or property. This can be a way to leave a meaningful legacy to a cause you care about, reflecting your personal values and interests. Up to a certain amount, the value of this gift will be excluded from estate tax, so this can help to increase the value of your estate for your heirs.
Make specific bequests to loved ones for items of value or sentiment such as jewellery, clothing, artwork or furniture. Without a will, your estate will get distributed equally amongst your heirs according to the laws of the state, and such items may be sold at auction or passed on to a family member who is not of your choice.
Unfortunately, family disputes are common when settling an estate, and expensive legal conflicts can drag on for months and years. Leaving a will greatly reduces the opportunity for disagreements and resulting expense at a time when your family and friends are trying to cope with the loss of a loved one, as all of your wishes are legally recognised.
Apart from all of the legal and financial benefits of making a will, knowing that your affairs are in order will give you peace of mind. It can be reassuring to know that everything has been arranged and your wishes will be carried out in a way that causes the least stress for your loved ones.
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