Making a Will can be a daunting process – no-one enjoys confronting their own mortality – but often the way we get over this big hurdle is because we know it’s a vital step for our children’s future. Most people fall into two categories when it comes to their Wills: they either don’t have one at all, or they made one so long ago it’s no longer up to date. Both carry risks, especially when it comes to protecting your children. But luckily, creating or amending your will doesn’t have to be stressful. Here are five tips to help even the most ardent procrastinator:
1. Where there’s a Will…
While we all know we should have a Will, The Law Society reported in May 2014 that only 36 per cent of British adults say they have written one, while 83 per cent reported being uncomfortable discussing their final wishes. The first step, if you don’t already have a Will, is to decide whether you’re going to use a will writing professional or make it yourself.. It’s important to note: you don’t need a solicitor to write a Will. A Solicitor is a good idea, particularly if you have a complicated or high value estates or complex family arrangements, as with all Will writing professionals they will charge fees. If you’re doing it yourself, will templates can be bought at places like W.H. Smith and found online, but they carry risks – if they’re not worded correctly, or signed properly they might be rendered invalid. Or you might like to consider using an online service that includes a legal professional. Which? Wills, for example, offers an online will making service with legal checking from £57. In November each year, there’s also Will Aid – A UK-wide scheme, that teams up with over 1,000 solicitors to provide basic wills (there’s no set fee, but Will Aid hopes you’ll make a donation of around £95 for a single Will) and in March and October each year, Free Wills Month, which offers free wills to those aged 55 and over. The most important factor is to make a Will.
2. Make sure your minor children are protected
One of the most important jobs of a Will is appointing guardians – so that you can choose the people to look after your children under the age of 18 should anything happen. You should approach the people you would like to appoint to make sure they are willing and able to take on this responsibility, and you may also wish to appoint alternative guardians, if your intended guardians pass away.
Wills are especially important if you and your partner are unmarried (or aren’t in civil partnership) and have children. Under current rules, unmarried partners have no automatic right to receive anything if a partner dies – regardless of how long they have lived together or if they had children. Step children will be left out if there’s no Will.
3. Keep it up to date
Once you’ve written a Will, you can’t amend the document after it’s been signed and witnessed. However, you can make some changes by making an official alteration to Will, called a codicil. There’s no limit on how many codicils you can add to a Will, but you must sign a codicil and get it witnessed in the same way as witnessing a Will. Also – and this sounds obvious – but make sure to keep the codicil with the Will itself. If you want to make a lot of changes, or if your circumstances change considerably, you may want to write a new Will. It’s also a good practice to review every 3-5 years or at any changes in family situations.
4. Store it somewhere safe
It’s no good having a Will if your executor (the person who actions your Will) can’t find it, or if it gets lost or damaged – in a fire, say. There are several ways to keep a Will safe – for example, in a safe, at the bank. If you use an online service, make sure to ask if they charge extra to make updates to your Will, and what happens if the company goes out of business. It’s also prudent to register your Will at Certainty (the National Will Register, endorsed by the Law Society).
5. Leaving a Legacy
Many of us will want to leave a donation to a charity in our Will. Legacies give charities, such as Unicef Uk, the financial resources to cope with the emergencies that cannot be planned for, like the recent devastating Ebola outbreaks and it’s effect on families and children in the worst hit areas. When leaving a legacy, it is always best to confirm the correct name and charity registration number with the charity or look on the Charity Commission websites – for England and Wales http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk and for Scotland http://www.oscr.org.uk.
Click here to read more about Unicef legacies
This post is on behalf of Unicef