The best way to ensure that your will and wishes are carried out after your death is to write them down so people know what you want.
Writing a Will
There are strict rules which must be followed to ensure that a Will is effective, otherwise expensive legal costs may be incurred trying to determine the effect of the Will, or it may be invalid and Intestacy rules will override your wishes.
For this reason it is generally advisable to seek legal help when writing a Will, although you can write your own simple Will following guidance such as this from consumer advisors Which. There are other aspects to be considered too, such as the impact of Inheritance Tax (see current rates here) and a good lawyer will be able to explain the best way to put your wishes into effect. For further guidance on the writing of Wills, see Citizens Advice Bureau
If you decide to take legal advice, check the fees and services offered by large solicitors firms, small local practices and online services to ensure that you know what you will get for your money and what it will cost. For example, an experienced local practitioner may offer a more friendly and convenient service, but at a price. For help with finding a solicitor, contact The Law Society. There is also an annual charity scheme called WillAid, which allocates solicitors to write wills for a donation during the month of November.
Your Will can include details such as who you would like to appoint as guardians to your children, bequests to dear friends and charities, and how you would like your favourite possessions distributed, so whether you have few possessions or many, writing your Will can be the best way to ensure your wishes are carried out.
If you should die without making a valid Will, your worldly goods will be distributed according to legal rules on Intestacy. These rules take little account of partnerships outside marriage, step-children (unless they have been adopted) or circumstances known to you that might affect the way you would prefer your money to be left, such as any special needs or illness.Intestacy rules are currently subject to review but will rarely achieve the outcome that most people would have wished.
Famous people who made no will
Martin Luther King Jr. died without making a will and his heirs continue to argue over the estate, currently over whether this includes ownership of transcripts of famous speeches. More Here
Bob Marley was worth around $30 million when he died, but he left no will, even when he knew he was dying of cancer. His assets would therefore have passed under Jamaican intestacy rules, but these did not favour his wife, and attempts to circumvent the rules continue to lead to dispute within the family. A salutory lesson on the value of estate planning, see here.
Just over one third of UK adults (see National Centre for Social Research Report) has made a Will, the percentage rising towards old age, yet all those without Wills will be affected by intestacy rules when they die. The Government is seeking to update Intestacy laws which date back to 1925, when home ownership and family units were very different, but for now you should assume that those rules are unlikely to give effect to your wishes.
There are likely to be other areas where you would like your wishes known to those you leave behind. These might include details of how you would like your body disposed of, what kind of burial or memorial service should take place, and even any messages you would like to leave.
Many people will not discuss such matters prior to death, leaving their next of kin to make many decisions without guidance and at a time of great stress.
A properly-executed Will will ensure that your property is divided according to your own wishes, whilst our Wish List will help ensure that your passing is marked in a way that reflects your life and interests.