Why make a will?
Many people know that wills are important, but are adverse to making one, either because of cultural reasons (wills are sometimes considered unlucky) or simply because they never thought they would need one until it becomes too late. Should you make a will, it would save your loved ones a lot of trouble should the worst case scenario happen. If you die without a will (‘dying intestate’) your estate will be distributed to your relatives according to a legal formula (the ‘intestacy rules’). This could be very different from what you want. Dying ‘intestate’ can also cause complications, delays and extra costs for those you leave behind. If you die intestate and you don’t have any relatives closer than a first cousin, your estate will go to the government.
What is a Will?
A will is a legal document that sets out how you want the things you own to be distributed when you die. Many believe that wills are only relevant for those who own property or have lots of money, but that is definitely not the case. Making a will removes the doubts, difficulties and disputes that can arise when there is no evidence of the deceased person’s wishes.
Making a will is a positive step you can take to:
provide for the people you care about
leave particular items to certain people
appoint a person you trust to carry out the instructions in your will (your executor)
leave any other instructions you may have (e.g. your funeral arrangements)
make a gift to charity if you wish.
Even if you don’t have a lot of money or you don’t own a house, you may want to leave other valuable or sentimental items such as art works, coins, jewellery, antiques, letters, or photographs to particular people.
After your death your property and belongings are referred to as your estate.
Who can make a Will?
Anyone over 18 can make a will as long as they have mental capacity. A person with a mild intellectual disability or in the early stages of dementia may still be able to make a will if they have capacity at the time the will is made. If their capacity is in doubt, an assessment of their understanding needs to be made by an appropriate person, such as a doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist. The Supreme Court can approve the making of a will by a person under 18. If in doubt about whether or not you or a loved one can make a will, Austin Haworth & Lexon Legal can provide you with relevant advice.
How do I make a Will?
Making a will can be a simple process. A will must be signed and witnessed properly to be legally valid. It is also important that your intentions are expressed clearly to reduce the chance of any argument over who you wanted to get what.
It is therefore best to have a solicitor do your will for you. While there are do-it-yourself will kits, it is safer to get a professional lawyer to do your will to make sure it is done properly and is appropriate for your needs. Our lawyers at Austin Haworth & Lexon Legal can also advise you on any related issues you need to take into account when drafting your will, to avoid future disputes both between relatives and the government.