Making a will might not be at the front of your mind. Nevertheless, if making sure your finances are properly managed, then ensuring you have one in place is a crucial aspect of good financial health.

Wills can be a tricky subject matter. They force us to confront one of the most difficult issues in life – what to do with your worldly possessions when you’re gone. However, it is an essential matter to take care of, especially to give your loved ones peace of mind should the worst happen. It will also ultimately provide your family with clarity over inheritance and your wishes. A will can prevent messy issues and even disputes over what happens to your estate.

If you die intestate, there are rules that govern how an estate can be allocated, which can lead to suboptimal outcomes depending on what you want to happen. This particularly matters for couples that are unmarried, as the partner could conceivably be left in the cold without a will to provide for them. There are also potential tax implications if an estate is not managed properly after death.

If you don’t draft a will, your spouse or civil partner (if you have one) will inherit your personal possessions and the first £250,000 of your estate, plus half of whatever is left after that. If you have children, they will then be entitled to the rest. If you don’t have a spouse but do have children, the estate will be divided equally among them. If you don’t have children, whoever are your nearest relations will inherit instead.

How to make a will

A will is a legal document, so ultimately writing what you want down on a piece of paper and signing it won’t be enough. However, making a list of your wishes is a good place to start. It isn’t an obligation to use a solicitor to draw up a will. To do so can be as simple as writing your wishes up and having two people witness you sign it. This must be done voluntarily and without pressure from a third party.

You can also use professional will writing services, charities such as Will Aid or your bank (although not all offer such a service). The costs of this will vary depending on the service offered. Beneficiaries, including partners or children, should not act as witnesses as this can lead to disputes down the line. You will also need to nominate executors to carry out your wishes. This can be a spouse, child or children or another trusted friend or relation.

It is a good idea to keep your will up to date as well. This should be done every five years, or any time there is a significant change in your financial or lifestyle circumstances. Alterations should not be made to the original document. You can add supplements, called a ‘codicil’ for minor changes which should be signed and witnessed in the same manner as the original will. Big changes however, such as divorce or remarriage, generally require a new will to be drafted in toto.

Once your will is drafted it is important to keep it somewhere safe, and ensure that the executors of the will know where it is located and how to access it (if it is in a place such as a secure lock box or safe).

How a financial adviser can help

A DIY will might seem simple, but depending on the complexities of your wealth and possessions, it is advisable to consult with a professional, be they a solicitor or a financial adviser. A financial adviser can help you to make a list of the wealth that sits within your estate, what should or should not be included in the will and how it should be apportioned. This is particularly relevant when considering the implications of inheritance tax. An adviser can help to assess the best way to share your estate that reduces IHT liabilities. They can also advise you on important exemptions such as gifting throughout your lifetime or giving money away to charity, plus the rules around ‘potentially exempt transfers.’

A financial adviser can also help you to structure your wealth in a way that minimises IHT liabilities and will be able to advise you on limits relating to property wealth and other allowances. Tax wrappers such as pensions can help to mitigate some of the liability, but come with rules that need to be carefully followed.

The complexities of getting a will right make it a potentially crucial document in your financial planning. For this reason, it is essential to consult a financial adviser to ensure your will is drawn up with the most careful consideration possible.

Any opinions stated are honestly held but are not guaranteed and should not be relied upon.
The information contained in this document is not to be regarded as an offer to buy or sell, or the solicitation of any offer to buy or sell, any investments or products.
The content of this document is for information only. It is advisable that you discuss your personal financial circumstances with a financial adviser before undertaking any investments.
All the data contained in the communication is believed to be reliable but may be inaccurate or incomplete. Unless otherwise specified all information is produced as of 13th February 2023.