Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Do I need a will?

We're always told "you never know what's around the corner" but it wasn't until our first babies were born that we actually thought 'hang on a sec... maybe it's actually time to sort out the will thing.'

OK, it's not the cheeriest topic. In fact, will chat is possibly the least cheery topic in the world... But when you have kids, a will - basically a document that will tells everyone what should happen to your money, property, and any other possessions after you die - can be vital. It can make sure your kids and anyone else who depends on you financially will be provided for. 

The good news: wills can be written for free or very cheaply: in fact, if you wrote a will on the back of a menu, but it was properly signed and witnessed, it should be legally binding. It doesn't have to be written in special lingo or on pricey paper - to be legally valid, a will just needs to:
* state how your estate (aka your money, home or other possessions) should be shared out when you die. * have been made when you were 100% "with it" - aka able to make your own decisions and not under pressure from anyone else.
* be signed and dated by you and by two adult, independent witnesses (who aren't going to inherit from you, or be married or civil partner with anyone who'd inherit), and then signed by the two witnesses in your presence

You can buy DIY will kits with a template to walk you through a simple will for about a tenner from the likes of Amazon or stationary shops - but that will only work if you want to leave everything to your husband or wife, for example. Having kids makes things more complex: you’ll need to appoint guardians responsible for looking after any children under 18, for example. That's why going to a pro is probably worthwhile - especially if you've got any added complexity - say, you're co-habiting but not married, or have kids and want the money to put in trust for when they're older, or you want some cash to go to the people who'd look after them, or have a small business whose future you'd like to set out, etc - then you should probably use an expert like a solicitor. This will cost anything from £100 to £500 depending on complexity - ask friends or family for recommended providers.

If you have one child and are hoping for more, refer to “children” instead of child or a specific name in your will to save the need for an update. But you’ll still need to tweak a will throughout your life - if you buy a property, get married, etc. You’ll also need to inform your executor - that's the person who'll, hopefully in a hundred years' time! - organise distribution of your cash and assets - where to find your will, either in a particular place in your home or with a solicitor or will writing service (but that'll involve an extra cost.)

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