Debunking the myths around wills

Some people might feel that they shouldn’t have to worry about writing a will right now; that they’re too young, or that they’re not wealthy enough to need one. In reality, everyone should consider making a will if they want any control over what happens to everything they own after they die. In our research of 2,000 UK adults, 49% of people we asked didn’t currently have a will, and 21% hadn’t ever thought about what they’d want to put in a will, but there are so many important reasons to write one.

There are so many assumptions and myths about wills out there, so we’re going to address some of them and debunk some of the biggest misconceptions. Hopefully this will help to demonstrate why everyone should think about creating a will.

Myth: You only need a will if you’re wealthy

One of the biggest myths about wills is that you only need one if you have a vault overflowing with money and a country mansion filled with priceless treasures. In reality, everyone should consider making a will . It can help you to be clear about what you want to happen after your death, whether that involves your funeral arrangements, your house, your money or any sentimental objects, and whether you want to leave anything to a charity you care about. You can also use a will to appoint a guardian for your children, or say who should care for your pets after you’re gone.

Without a will, inheritance laws will determine all of this instead, and these laws might be more complicated than you expect. A will is all about setting out your wishes and making sure that the people and causes you care about are provided for in the way that you choose. Without a will, everything you’ve worked for could go to people you wouldn’t have chosen, or even to the Crown.

Without a will, so much is left to chance, from who inherits your assets to what happens at your funeral. In our research, nearly a third of people hadn’t ever talked to their loved ones about their end-of-life wishes.

Myth: A will only covers what happens when you die

Many people think a will only affects what happens immediately after you die, but it can also be used to protect your assets long after your death. For example, say you want to leave everything to your partner, and then pass this on to your children when your partner dies. If you simply leave everything to your partner in your will, it becomes their property and you don’t have any further control over what happens to it.

After your death, your partner could remarry and then everything would go to their new spouse when they die, potentially cutting your children out altogether. This is called sideways disinheritance and it’s not uncommon. Alternatively, your partner could make their own will that leaves everything to someone else entirely.

When you make a will, you can include trusts that protect certain assets from situations like this in the future.

Myth: If you’ve lived with your partner for a long time, you have a ‘common-law’ marriage

This is a very common myth, but there’s no such thing as ‘common-law’ marriage in the UK, and an unmarried partner has no automatic rights to inherit from their partner if they pass away.

The only way an unmarried partner would inherit is if they’re named as a beneficiary in the will.

Myth: If you’re married, your spouse automatically inherits your assets

If someone dies without a will and they were married or in a civil partnership, their partner will inherit all or part of their estate, but how much they are entitled to will depend on the circumstances. If the person who died has any children, including those from a previous relationship, they could also be entitled to inheritance if the estate is worth more than £270,000.

Myth: If a parent dies without a will, their children automatically inherit everything

Many parents wrongly assume that their assets will automatically go to their children if they don’t have a will. In reality, if there isn’t a will, the children will only inherit if there is no surviving married or civil partner, even if that partner is estranged or separated from the person who died.

Under inheritance rules, a surviving spouse or civil partner would inherit the first £270,000 of the estate. Anything over this will then be divided 50/50, with the spouse or civil partner receiving 50% and the other 50% being divided equally between the children. This includes any children from previous marriages or relationships too.

Myth: A will has to be overseen by a lawyer

It might come as a surprise that will writing is not a regulated industry, meaning a will can technically be drafted by anyone.

There’s no requirement for a will to be created or witnessed by a regulated solicitor, which means some will writing firms are completely unregulated. If you get a will written by an unregulated firm, you risk your will not being drafted or executed correctly. If your will hasn’t been executed in the right way, it could be found to be invalid after you die, or if it doesn’t use the correct terminology, it might not distribute your estate in the way you’d hoped.

Getting your will written by a firm that’s authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) will help ensure that it’s legally robust and your assets go to the right people after you die.

Do I need a will?

As you can see, there are lots of reasons why it’s important to consider making a will and keeping it updated throughout your life.

It’s never too early to start planning for the future. Putting a will in place now can avoid potential issues further down the line and ensure that those you care about are provided for in the way you choose.

Make a start with writing your Will today, and find out how we can help.