What’s the best age to write your Will? After all, writing a Will might seem an unusual activity when you’ve got the rest of your life to think about it.
From a solicitor’s perspective, a black and white answer to “At what age should I write a Will?” would be along the lines of “If you are aged 18 or over, you should have a Will.” This is because in the UK, 18 is the youngest age you can be to make your Will.
Let’s be honest though: while this is a very true answer, it’s probably unrealistic to believe that everyone over 18 will rush off to write their Will. The stats that back this up are startling: in 2018, one study reported that less than half of adults in the UK have an up-to-date Will in place.
Typically, making a Will is motivated by life events or ‘triggers’ – something that sends us on the thought path “I should really make a Will…”. Unfortunately, these are normally negative triggers, such as a health scare for yourself or a loved one. However, there are plenty of other – thankfully, more positive – triggers that should motivate you to write your Will.
Sadly, the risks for the 59% of us in the UK that don’t have an up-to-date Will are very real
Before we move on to some triggers that should get you thinking about writing your Will, let’s consider what happens if you don’t have one.
A Will is a legal document that gives you the best possible control over what happens to your estate – your personal belongings, cars, money, home and investments – when you die. Before assuming you don’t have anything in your estate to give away, consider again: even when as young as 18, most people will have at least one bank account in their name.
Indeed, even with bigger assets, many of us assume we don’t have enough of an estate to merit making a Will: earlier this year it was revealed that even two in five homeowners don’t think they have anything of value to leave in their estate.
However, if you are over 18 and die without a valid Will, whatever is in your estate will pass to whoever the Law decides. This could mean your estate passes family members you don’t want to benefit from, it or even go straight into the Crown’s pocket.
A Will helps to avoid these problems, making your intentions and wishes clear and allowing you full say of who receives what assets from your estate, how they receive it – and even when they receive it.
When it comes to writing your will, there are more compelling triggers than age
The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has suddenly driven many of us to consider our Wills in the face of this sweeping and potentially fatal illness. However, even before coronavirus, many people are only motivated to write a Will when they become aware of their health and mortality, or that of a loved one.
In either case, the problem is that pressing health matters and risks can make the subject of writing our Wills a very difficult one to talk about, as it immediately becomes a sensitive and emotionally-loaded issue. If at all possible, planning and talking about your Will before it becomes a pressing issue makes it a much easier topic to handle.
Beside heath reasons, there are plenty of other triggers that should make you consider writing your Will, or reviewing an existing one. Here are just a few of them.
Buying a new home or property
Regardless of the value of your home or property, having property in your estate will instantly boost its value significantly. Your Will should detail how ownership of any properties in your name alone will be distributed, and to whom, upon your death.
How properties owned in joint names are distributed depend on the arrangement of your ownership. If you own the property as joint tenants (sometimes called ‘beneficial joint tenants’) ownership of the property will automatically pass to the other owner(s) when you die. However, if you own any property as ‘tenants in common’, your share of the property can be passed on in your will to whoever you choose without impacting the other owner’s share or entitlement to the property.
Moving in with someone
If you’ve just decided to take the leap and move in with someone, thinking about making your Will is probably not the most Romantic task, but it is certainly a pretty important one!
Moving in with someone can change everything, as you are now ‘dependent’ on one another, sharing a home and possibly even financial arrangements. Cohabitees (people living together who are not married or in a civil partnership) have no protection under the law if one of you dies without a Will.
In the case of partners, this could place them in a really difficult position where their only options are to claim against the estate or hope that your family (who your estate will normally pass to automatically) will be fair to them. This is especially important to consider if there are any children you wish to leave part of your estate to, such as those from another relationship. Getting good advice about your Will and putting it in place early will help avoid any potential conflicts should the worst happen.
New spouses or family members
Did you know that getting married automatically revokes any previous Wills? If you have an existing Will, you will need to make another and ensure the correct provisions are put in place to avoid it being revoked when you get married.
This is because marriage automatically elevates the status of your spouse if you die without a Will. They immediately become your next of kin and will benefit from the entirety of your estate should you die. While in some cases this can be a good thing and simplify the whole process of writing your Will, it will also mean that other family members or children would not necessarily inherit anything from you.
While we’re on the subject of children, this is undoubtedly the most common trigger that gets us thinking about our Wills. A new arrival in the family – whether a new child or a grandchild – sparks the motivation for getting our Wills together like few other triggers!
Whether getting married or bringing new children or grandchildren into your family, the most valuable thing that writing your Will now offers is the opportunity to protect and secure each of your loved ones’ futures according to your precise wishes when you’re no longer around.
Despite all the positive life events and triggers that should motivate us to write our Will, there are also some more upsetting triggers that will instinctively make you consider writing or reviewing a Will.
Experiencing a loss in the family, divorce and even fall outs or estrangement from family members will naturally change how and to whom you wish your estate to be passed on when you die. These things can happen any time, and make it all the more important not only to write your Will, but to then also review it regularly to make sure it is still applicable to your most recent circumstances.
How to go about writing your Will – whatever age you may be
There are plenty of options for writing your Will, ranging from DIY kits to online templates, right up to tailored Will writing services provided by solicitors.
However you choose to write your Will, the most important thing is to make sure you cover all the individual elements of your estate that you wish to be distributed, and to whom you would like them passed on.
If you have a large or complex estate, or specific wishes for how and when you want your estate to be received by your loved ones, you should seek expert advice on how to prepare your Will properly.
From Simple Wills to Enhanced Wills, Trusts and Mirror Wills, Celtic Law can assist with considering, preparing and reviewing your Will. For more information and costs, please get in touch.