At LegalWills.co.uk, one of the most frequent questions we hear is “Do I need a Will?”.
When the answer is “yes”, we then hear the familiar response “But, I don’t own anything?”
If only things were that simple….
In 2014, the average net worth of a British adult was £147,134. Now, depending on the equity built up in the home, if you remove that value from the net worth it still comes in at around £20,000. Therefore, even if you don’t own your own house, there could still be well over £20,000 that makes up a part of your estate after death.
According to the pension giant Aviva, most British middle aged people have typically built up private retirement savings and investments worth £53,793. Now, you might think that these figures don’t apply to you but equity can be found in unexpected sources from ISA’s to insurance plans and even the personal items you own within your house.
On a daily basis most Brits have no idea what their net worth is, but it is a helpful calculation that provides a financial snapshot of how much money a person would have leftover if they sold everything they own of value and paid off all their outstanding debt. It’s basically the same process that will happen to your estate. So before you jump to conclusions that you don’t own anything of worth, it’s good to calculate your net worth as it might provide a helpful insight into your financial outlook. After doing these, you may probably discover on this basis alone, you need a Will.
Are you really penniless?
In 2016, the average London household spent £652.40 in a week on general consumer consumption. That figure quickly adds up into a lot of money and it raises some questions, not only about where our money is going but also about what we own that reflects that value. Do you have a bank account with savings? Do you own life insurance? Do you have any sort of pension no matter how small? Do you have any investments, mutual funds, Savings Bonds? Do you own a car, a motorcycle or any other personal property? How about your furniture, TV, stereo equipment, game consoles, etc.? If you have any of these things then you own something and when you die all that “stuff” needs to go somewhere.
And remember, it’s not just stuff that has financial value, you may have possessions that you would like passed on to your children or grandchildren. A watch, necklace or photograph, does not have to be expensive for it to have sentimental value and be left to a loved one in your Will. Ultimately, few people die without any assets to their name. While you may not own a property or have significant savings and investments, you could have other belongings that can be passed on to friends and relatives through a Will. If you want to leave any specific item that you own to an individual, then you need a Will.
You need a Will – to avoid uncertainty
Nearly two thirds of the British adult population do not have a Will which means that over 50% of the British population are leaving loved ones open to a lot of uncertainty and risk. If you do not have a Will, here are some questions you should think about:
- Who will make arrangements and deal with all of your possessions when you die?
- Will they be emotionally and physically able to complete the task and dispose of your possessions without knowing your wishes?
- Who is going to pay for your funeral arrangements?
- Will you be leaving loved ones in debt?
- Who is going to care for your children or pets?
It may seem like a morbid task to think about all of the above questions but if you don’t do it now, you will be leaving your loved ones with a lot of problems and unanswered questions that could be easily avoided.
Step through the Will writing service at www.legalwills.co.uk and see the questions that it asks. Every answer that you provide is removing uncertainty for your loved ones.
Appointing an Executor
Within the service at LegalWills.co.uk you can name an Executor. This is the person who you are giving the responsibility to take care of everything after you are gone. They must arrange your funeral, and also gather all of your assets to be distributed according to the instructions in your Will. Without a Will, your friends and family members will all be looking at each other wondering who should do what.
Your Executor isn’t always the person closest to you. Your immediate loved ones may be dealing with the emotional trauma of losing you, the last thing they want added to their grief is dealing with paying taxes to HM Revenue & Customs. Working with banks to release funds can be arduous and frustrating. It takes somebody with persistence, resolve and the willingness to contact the bank over and over. It is not for the faint of heart, and your most immediate family members may not be ideally placed to do this.
You can of course appoint a professional to be your Executor, but be very careful as professionals generally charge an hourly rate in addition to a percentage of your estate. This can amount to tens of thousands of pounds – which is completely out of proportion to the amount of work required.
You need a Will if you have a pet
Have you ever considered who will take care of your pet if something were to happen to you? Using the service at LegalWills.co.uk you are able to set up a trust for a pet. We recently heard from somebody whose best friend had died, and everybody knew that the dog would go to them. Unfortunately the pet still ended up being admitted to a dog’s home for £250. The next day the friend then adopted the dog from the home for £250. A complete waste of £500.
Our service allows you to make provision for a pet, by not only naming a new owner/parent, but also setting aside funds for the care of that pet. Our service is unique in this regard.
Guardians for your children
Did you know that the only place you can name guardians for your children is in your Will? If you have children, then you need a Will.
If something were to happen to both parents, hopefully people will come forward and apply to be the legal guardians of any children. A judge will then make the decision looking at the applicants, but obviously the judge does not know these people. They can only take into account obvious criteria like the applicant’s salary, where they live and their relationship to you.
What the judge ideally looks for is guidance from you, and this guidance is included in your Last Will and Testament. Unless there was an obvious reason not to, the judge will grant guardianship to the person that you have named in your Will.
The choice of guardianship is a very personal one. It may take into account spiritual beliefs, parenting philosophies and a number of other less tangible qualities. It’s worth taking the time to have this discussion with family members so that the decision is yours, and not left to a judge in a courtroom.
If you think you have little by way of wealth right now, you may have struggled to make a charitable donation. It happens to all of us. We are struggling to pay bills and to make ends meet. The idea of finding charity from our weekly paycheque is a struggle.
But it is actually very easy to make a charitable bequest in your Will. Knowing that the bequest is in there, can take away some of your guilt of falling below your charitable standards whilst you are alive.
Simply leaving five percent of your estate to charity in your Will, is a very worthwhile gift and more impactful than putting a fiver into a box at Christmas.
Without a Will, your assets will all go where the government see fit. But your Will allows you to be brilliantly creative.
Take Roger Brown, who left £3,500 in his Will, for his seven mates go on a weekend break to a European city of their choice.
You can leave your signed Bobby Charlton shirt to your nephew. You guitar to your brother, and your photo album to your daughter.
Your Will lets you ensure that the right things go to the right people, and things are not just sold because they ended up in unappreciative hands.
If you own any memorabilia or family heirlooms, then you need a Will.
At LegalWills.co.uk we don’t include funeral arrangements within the Will itself. We have an entirely different service called MyFuneral that allows you to step through an interactive service to accurately describe the kind of funeral arrangements you wish, including the controlling of expense.
Without a detailed description of this, your loved ones will be making difficult decisions at an emotionally vulnerable time. They should not be made to choose between £2,000 oak and £3,000 mahogany. You can provide some relief and reassurance by explaining that your limited assets should be going to your family, not to a funeral home.
You may be worth more after you are gone
I know what you’re thinking. “This is all well and good, but honestly, I have nothing, not two pennies”.
Even this doesn’t matter. You have absolutely no idea how much you are going to be worth after you have died.
You are not writing your Will because you think you are about to collapse in the next minute. Your Will may not come into effect for another 30 years, and you have no idea what you will be worth at that time.
But you cannot wait until the moment before you die before you write your Will. You need a Will now, and this should be updated throughout your life.
What if you were hit by a bus tomorrow. But the bus driver was texting at the time, and the bus company was found to be negligent. Just like in this case, your family can sue, and all of a sudden you have significant assets to be distributed.
Some final points
In all Wills you get to nominate an executor which is an individual that will handle your estate and perform a number of crucial functions when you die. If you do not nominate an executor, an eligible relative must apply to the probate registry for a Grant of Letters of Administration in order to act as the Administrator. They must show that an extensive search was conducted to find a will but in most cases the deceased’s spouse will be appointed. This creates extra work and unnecessary confusion for your loved ones at an already difficult time and it can add unneeded fees to your estate.
While all of this is going on, your assets will be frozen.
If you pass away without leaving a Will (known as intestate) your assets will be distributed according to the intestate distribution laws.
When there are no identifiable surviving relatives, your estate will be declared Bona vacantia which means ‘ownerless goods’ in Latin and it will pass to the Crown. The Crown can issue grants from the estate but it is not required to do so.
For goodness sake – it takes 20 minutes!
We have looked over every aspect of why you need a Will even if you think that you don’t have any property of value and I hope that you have come to the obvious conclusion that a Will is always necessary.
The decision should however be straightforward when you realise that writing a Will takes about 20 minutes and the cost to write a Will is only £24.95. The emotional and financial burden passed onto your family of dying without a Will is massive in comparison.
He has over 19 years of experience helping people to write their Will and other estate planning documents. He has been interviewed by many of the major news media outlets and has contributed to articles in most leading publications. He has also contributed to a number of financial planning books.
Throughout his career, Tim has written extensively on the subject of Will writing and estate planning.