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Do I need a will?

scales of justiceI have singularly failed this year to make one of my resolutions: namely, to update my will. And I feel really stupid about it. My current will was written not long after my husband died nearly 10 years ago. It’s a professionally-written, water-tight will which expresses my desires accurately (most importantly, who would care for my son if I died and what would happen to my estate) at that time. But times have changed and I could really do with updating it. Yet even though I know it’s really important I have left it sitting in the drawer at the end of the to-do list.

Research just out from Royal London shows I’m not alone. Apparently, 59% of parents either don’t have a will or have one that is out of date. More than half of those interviewed didn’t even have a will and a quarter of those said they had no intention of getting one. This is plainly bonkers: why would you work hard all your life and then have nothing to do with who gets your assets when you die? Not having a will – dying intestate – is not a good idea. Not only could it delay your estate being wound up, it could also mean that distant relatives get a share of your wealth. And if you’re living with a partner, then your unmarried status means that your other half won’t automatically get anything if you die without a will. Much easier, surely, to get a will.

Because my circumstances are a little complex I would always go with a professionally-drawn will. According to Which – see its all-encompassing guide here – it will cost me a few hundred pounds. That’s not an inconsiderable expense for me, but worth it for the peace of mind. If you do have very simple finances then you might consider a DIY will. As long as it is properly witnessed (by two over 18 year olds who aren’t executors and who don’t benefit from the will) then it will be legally binding. Which? suggests that you could write your own will and then have it checked by a professional which would make it cheaper. I’m thinking about this as an option – I could use my current will as a template and just change a few names and beneficiaries. Or there are will writing services which are cheaper than using a solicitor.

Some packaged bank accounts offer free will-writing, and if you’re a union member you might also get free will-writing as a benefit. Charities often offer free wills if you’re going to include them in your will. And there’s always Will Aid month where you get a professionally-written will in return for a charitable donation. The next Will Aid month is November next year. Hopefully, by then I will have got my act together and have a document which accurately reflects what I want for my estate.

And see our guides to wills and probate here

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Tuesday, 18 December 2018