Does a Will Really Make a Difference to Those Left Behind?

03 May 2019

We've all heard that it's important to make a Will, but does a Will really make a difference to those left behind after you die? We look at how making a Will can have a real impact on your loved ones and others when the time comes.

Ensuring Your Loved Ones Are Provided For

Of course, a key function of a Will is to ensure that your nearest and dearest are provided for in the way that you want after you die. If you die without a valid Will in place, then everything you own will be distributed in line with inheritance laws called the Rules of Intestacy, regardless of whether or not this aligns with your wishes.

These rules are strict and place your relatives in order of priority, starting with your spouse or civil partner. Even if you feel that the Rules of Intestacy could accommodate your own wishes at the moment, there's no knowing what the future holds. What if your spouse or children don't survive you, for example? With a Will, you can prepare for such eventualities, giving you total control.

It's also important to note that the Rules of Intestacy don't recognise certain family members such as unmarried partners or step children. Without a Will these relatives would not be entitled to inherit anything from you.

Even if your family know that the way your assets are being distributed goes against your wishes, they will be powerless to intervene. This can be incredibly distressing for your loved ones, particularly at a time of grief.

Avoiding Disputes

If your loved ones do feel that some individuals are benefitting from your Estate in a way you wouldn't have wanted, while others have been omitted, tensions can quickly rise. Sadly, disputes between family members over the distribution of an Estate are not uncommon.

Another benefit of clearly setting out your wishes in a Will is that it avoids any ambiguity and can help to reduce the risk of conflict arising between family members after you die. If your family are assured that your Estate is being distributed in line with your wishes, then they are more likely to accept this even though they may not like your decision.

We spoke with a number of Co-op Members who shared their own experiences with us, and they explained what a difference a Will makes when it comes to dealing with a loved one's Estate. One Co-op Member, Jane Wilkinson, told us how the absence of Wills made the administration of both of her parents' Estates significantly more complicated. She commented, "People need to make a Will, for the sake of their families."

Another Co-op Member told us how her grandfather dying without a Will led to a breakdown of her family relationships, which sadly never recovered. This experience spurred her on to make her own Will, to reduce the risk of the same thing happening when she dies.

As well as dealing with the distribution of your Estate, you can also set out your funeral wishes in your Will. This means that your family won't be left to make difficult decisions and speculate over what you would or wouldn't have wanted, with no clear instruction.

Charitable Gifts in Wills

Leaving a gift to a charity in your Will is another way in which your Will can make a real difference to those left behind. Charities rely heavily on gifts left to them in Wills, and these gifts can help them to continue their important work.

Some people choose to leave a gift to a charity that has helped them or a loved one in the past, or to a cause that they feel strongly about. Others choose to include a disaster provision in their Will, in which they leave their Estate to charity if none of their other beneficiaries survive them.

Regardless of what you want to gift to charity and how, charitable legacies in Wills do make a real difference. Currently, around 13% of all charity income in the UK comes from gifts left in Wills. Without these, many charities would have to significantly cut back on their services while others simply wouldn't exist at all.

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