Making a Will isn’t a very cheery topic. Many of us likely think of it as morbid, or as just another errand we don’t have time to take care of, and may be tempted to put off for as long as possible. However, the truth is, making a Will is one of the most important things you might ever do.
It helps to protect the people (and things) that are close to your heart after you’ve died. Having a Will in place ensures that your loved ones will be looked after in the way you had hoped, and that your money, property and possessions will be passed on or used up in the way you intended, when you’re no longer around to take care of them yourself.
If you die without leaving a Will, it can have all sorts of complicated repercussions. It could take a long time for your affairs to be sorted out, especially if your estate is complex. It also means that what you have left might not go to the person or cause that you wanted to benefit.
Many people hold the misconception that making a Will is something that’s important only in later life, but this isn’t the case. You can make a Will at any time. However, there are a number of key life events or milestones at which making a Will becomes even more important – here are seven key reasons why you should make yours.
1. If you’ve bought a house
Buying your first house can be an exciting time in your life. It also means a big change in terms of how much you own. A property is likely to be the most important asset you own, so you need to have the right advice when making your Will to ensure it is disposed of how you wish.
2. If you’re getting married
Once you’re married, if you die without leaving a will, the majority of your estate will go to your spouse. Your other surviving relatives including your children, parents or siblings will receive much less, or in some cases, nothing at all. So, if you want to ensure that part of your estate will be passed on to them, you will need to make a Will.
It’s also important to note that when you get married, this will automatically invalidate an existing Will you have made, unless your previous will included an expectation of a marriage. Failing to make a new Will could result in previous beneficiaries being disinherited.
3. If you’re in a relationship
Not everyone chooses to marry, but if you are in a long-term relationship and pass away without a Will, your partner won’t automatically inherit anything. The law will instead decide the order of inheritance, and your estate could instead be passed on to your nearest surviving relatives, or to the Government. This means your partner could be left with nothing after you’re gone, so it’s extremely important to make a Will particularly if you’re unmarried.
4. If you have children
In your Will, you can decide on who you would want to be the legal Guardian of any of your children under the age of 18 if you were to pass away.
If both parents pass away without leaving a Will, and so without having chosen a legal guardian, then children left behind can be at risk of having to endure court battles, family disputes and even foster care. It may also mean they could end up in the care of a family member you may not have chosen for such a duty.
Also, as previously mentioned, if you pass away without leaving a Will, most of your estate is likely to go to your spouse, and your children may inherit very little or nothing at all. If you want to ensure more of your property, money or possessions will be passed on to your children, you will need to specify this in a Will.
5 . If you get separated or divorced
When you separate, you remain legally married, which means your ex-spouse will still be treated as if they were your husband or wife – and so can still inherit most of your estate. This may be unlikely to be what you would want to happen if you were to pass away, making this a very important time for you to make or revise your Will.
On the other hand, if you divorce, your ‘ex’ will no longer be automatically in line to inherit anything from you. But, if you already have a Will in place when you divorce, your ‘ex’ will be treated as if they had died for the purposes of reading your will. This can create confusion, so it is best to write a new Will to make sure your wishes are clearly honoured.
6. If you are changing beneficiaries
Our relationships and family dynamics can change over time due to life events and circumstances. Keeping your Will up to date is important to make sure those closest to you that you love and care for will inherit what you intended. If you’ve had a big shift or change in your family or your relationships, it’s best to review your Will and ensure it reflects what you want, or to make a Will if you haven’t already.
7. If you want to support a charity you care about
We all hope to leave our mark on the world. Leaving a gift in your Will to a charity you care about is a wonderful way to leave a legacy of good will and care after you’re gone. Your gift can help to ensure your chosen charity will be able to continue their work for years to come, and to create a better future for your children or grandchildren to inherit.
Gifts to charity are tax free and can help reduce the Inheritance Tax liability on what you leave behind. If you chose to leave a gift in your Will, make sure to include the charity’s registration number. This will mean they are easy to identify in the future, even if the charity changes its name or merges with another charity.
We are hugely grateful for all the gifts in Wills we receive at NICHS. Annually nearly one third of our funding comes from gifts in Wills, and without this generosity, we would be unable to carry out much of the work we do every day.
To find out more about how to leave a Will and about what a gift to NICHS could achieve, click here.
‘Will You?’ help re-build healthy hearts?
During January, solicitors in Downpatrick, Ballyclare, and Belfast are waiving their fee for will-writing services with clients and instead, donating £100 to support us as we strive to help get local people back on their feet and help re-build their lives.
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We have redesigned our range of health promotion services to continue delivering support to workplaces, communities, schools and for individuals throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Our prevention services work to help detect early signs of chest, heart and stroke illness and to inspire people to make healthy choices and lifestyle changes.