Wills are incredibly powerful legal documents that allow you to have control over your estate and belongings even after you die. Everyone should prepare a will, even if they don’t expect to pass away anytime soon. If you don’t already have one, there is no better time for you to prepare a will than right now. This guide contains everything you need to know about wills, including what they are, what you can and can’t do with a will, and why you should prepare one as soon as possible.
Why Do You Need A Will?
A will is more than just another legal document you have to fill out; you can accomplish a lot with them. A will allows you to continue providing for your dependents, as well as other family members even after you die. If you’re the breadwinner of your family, in the unlikely and unfortunate event of your death, you can continue to do so through the properties that you leave behind. You can also assign specific properties to specific loved ones. With a will, you can be certain that your loved ones are going to be taken care of, exactly as intended. In essence, you need a will not for yourself, but for the people, you leave behind.
What Happens If You Die Without A Will
So what happens if you die intestate (without a will)? Your properties will be shared according to the rules of intestacy. In the UK, the rules of intestacy determine how your property will be distributed among your spouse and children. They also dictate what happens in situations where there are no spouses and children.
This is not to say that you should simply ignore preparing a will and allow the rules of intestacy to take care of your estate because this can have several unintended consequences. For example, the rules of intestacy don’t allow unmarried partners, same-sex couples outside a civil partnership, stepchildren and close friends to inherit your property. This means that even if you want them to have a part of your estate, without a will, there is no way they will be entitled to them. If these are the only people available, none of your loved ones will get your inheritance, and it will go to the crown.
Additionally, the process of dealing with an intestate estate take months to work out and usually amount to a lot of stress on the family members. It can even cost money when your family members have to pay tracing agents to build accurate family trees that will determine who gets what. That’s why you have to prepare a will as soon as you can, for your loved ones’ sake.
What Can You Control With A Will?
With a will, you can control virtually all of your possessions, including the following:
- Who executes your will
- How much money and assets you’d like to be donated to charity
- What proportion of your estate you would like to leave to your spouses and children
- What assets you would like to leave your family
- How you want your personal belongings to be shared among your loved ones
- Who the legal guardians of your children should be if you don’t have a spouse
- What age your children will be eligible for their inheritance
- Who you would like to exclude from your will
- Your funeral arrangements
- How/if you would like your organs to be donated.
You can view your will as an extension of yourself. It basically gives you control over everything you own. However, it is important to understand that there are some things you can’t control with a will. That will be covered in the next section
What You Can’t Control With A Will?
While preparing your will, you have to remember that there are some circumstances that even your will cannot control. Consider the following scenarios, for example:
- If you have life insurance and you pass away, you cannot indicate in your will who gets your proceeds. Normally, when you sign up for life insurance, you have to indicate a beneficiary in the policy. This is the person that receives the proceeds, and your will cannot change that. You will have to revisit your insurance policy if you want to make such changes
- Another set of proceeds that your will cannot control are those from your retirement accounts. These will also go to the designated beneficiary.
- If you are in joint ownership of assets like properties, bank accounts and other possessions, your will cannot decide who gets them. In the event of your death, they will go to the surviving member of your joint ownership, even if your will says otherwise.
- If you have established a living trust, the assets in it are immune to the wishes you’ve indicated in your will. This means that whatever assets you’ve put in the trust will go to the beneficiaries. You should consider setting up a trust, as they can help bypass the long processes of dividing up your estate and verifying who should get what. The assets can go straight to whoever they are meant for.
- If you expect some of your relatives and acquaintances to contest your will, you cannot put a clause in the will to prevent them from doing so. There’s no way you can to draft a will that will prevent people from contesting it. However, you can prepare a valid, well-detailed will, and have it reviewed by your attorney. When you do this, it will be able to withstand any challenge, and ensure that your assets are distributed as you want.
A final will and testament is more than just a legally binding document; it is also a message to your loved ones. It can help you pass on your assets, as well as other personal possessions to them. On the other hand, if you die without preparing a will, your loved ones might be locked in a time and energy-sapping procedure, trying to decide how your property should be distributed. That’s why a will is one of the most important documents you can prepare.