It is widely recognised that writing a will is an effective way of ensuring that your assets are distributed in accordance with your wishes after you die.
If you die intestate, i.e. without a will, then your estate will be distributed in accordance with the law applicable to the country where you live, and there are no guarantees that it will go to the people you would have chosen.
As well as ensuring the correct distribution of your estate, a will is important because it allows parents to say who they would like to look after their children in the event of the parents’ death.
According to a recent survey conducted by Will Aid, 53% of parents who responded have not prepared this vital piece of paperwork, effectively leaving their kids without guardianship.
With 40,000 children bereaved of a parent each year in the UK – 110 a day – this means many are being left to the mercy of the courts, says the charity.
Appointing a Guardian
“If you die without appointing a guardian, and there is no other parent with parental responsibility, the court will decide who is appointed to look after your child,” commented Peter de Vena Franks, campaign director for Will Aid. “In some cases this can be a person neither related nor known to the child.”
“Preparing a correctly worded will with a solicitor is the only way to prevent this potentially distressing situation from occurring and yet so many parents are finding reasons not to get this important piece of paperwork done,” he added.
The Will Aid research revealed that of the 53% of parents with no will, 54% said they had not found time to do it, 19% thought they were too young to bother and 18% didn’t want to think about death. A further 21% don’t think they have anything of value to leave behind while and 13% thought it unnecessary.
“Do not assume that if you do not assign a guardian, the court will automatically grant custody to aunts, uncles, or even grandparents of a child,” added Mr de Vena Franks. “A will provides the best way for a parent or parents to leave instructions about who they would like their child to be cared for in the event of their death.”
Leaving a Charitable Legacy
In addition to providing security for your loved ones, a will is also a good way to leave a charitable legacy to a cause close to your heart.
Whilst bills and unexpected costs can get in the way of donating to charity while you're alive, leaving a legacy to charity is a great way to make your mark, and is a really importance source of funding for charities, says Will Aid.
Leaving a charitable legacy can sometimes also be beneficial to your heirs. The current inheritance tax threshold is £325,000 per person (£650,000 per married couple). If your estate exceeds this figure the excess is very likely to be taxed at 40%, although any property that passes to your spouse or to charity usually passes tax-free, explains Will Aid.
If you have left 10% or more of your taxable estate to charity, the inheritance tax charge on the rest of your estate is reduced to 36%.
If you would like to find out more about writing a will or about our executry and probate services, then contact our specialist lawyers today.