Several surveys carried out in 2023 have shown that at least half of the UK adult population do not have a will in place. Many reasons were given by the survey participants, including the belief that making a will is a complicated and challenging process, and a reluctance to think or talk about death.
With the right guidance and advice, making a will can be a straightforward and hassle-free process. In this article we try to bust some of the myths about wills and help you to separate the fact from the fiction.
Myth 1 – Wills are only for older people
This is not true. Anyone can make a will, and everyone should have one, no matter how old you are. Sadly, illness and serious injury can happen to anyone at any age and can often be sudden and unexpected.
Having a will can be very beneficial for younger people, especially if you own a property or have children. You can nominate guardians for minor children to ensure that they will be loved and cared for, if the worst happened.
Many unmarried couples purchase a property together and, depending on the type of joint ownership, the property may not pass automatically on the death of one owner. The intestacy rules (which govern how an estate passes in the absence of a valid will) do not currently make any provision for unmarried partners. Therefore, the only way to ensure your partner will benefit from your estate is to make provision for this in your will.
A will can be changed at any time so long as you have mental capacity where you can update it throughout your life, as and when, required.
Myth 2 – Divorce invalidates a will
This is not true. A will is revoked by marriage or civil partnership, but not by divorce.
However, divorce does affect a will because the former spouse is treated as though they have died before the deceased. Therefore, if the former spouse is named as an executor they will not be able to act, and any gift to them under the will fails.
It is therefore important to review an existing will after a divorce to ensure it still reflects your wishes.
Myth 3 – My spouse will inherit everything so I don’t need a will
This is true in some cases, but not in others. If there is a surviving spouse and no children, then the spouse will inherit the entire estate.
If there is a surviving spouse and surviving children, they will share the estate in accordance with the provisions set out in the intestacy rules. The spouse receives a statutory legacy, which is currently £322,000. The remainder of the estate is split in half, with half passing to the spouse and the other half split between the children.
Myth 4 – Anyone can witness a will
This is not true. If a beneficiary witnesses a will they cannot receive their gift, so it is better if the witnesses are independent.
A will witnessed by a beneficiary will still be valid, it is only the gift to that beneficiary which fails.
Myth 5 – I do not need to tell anyone I have made a will
Once you have made a will, we would always recommend that you tell your executors that you have done so, and crucially tell them where the original document is stored as this will save them a lot of time and stress when the time comes for them to take up their role.
There is currently no central register of wills, which means there could be a delay in administering your estate if it is not clear whether you have left a will or not.
How Moore Barlow can help
At Moore Barlow our team of experienced wills, trusts, and estate solicitors can provide you with expert advice and guidance on all aspects of estate planning, from creating a will to setting up trusts and managing complex estates.
Get in touch with our wills, trusts and estates team for export legal advice.