Do I Need a Will

Here at Higgins Miller we specialise in family law, which means helping people deal with extremely stressful life events. People dealing with issues such as divorce, adoption and contact with social services need legal advice which blends technical expertise with emotional support, and that’s exactly what we provide. Many people find the idea of writing a will stressful and put it off, sometimes until it’s too late. We know from experience how damaging that can be, so we’ve put together this FAQ to answer the question Do I Need a Will?

Do I Need A Will?

Many people might think that they don’t need a will. This could be because they’re relatively young or feel that they don’t have much to leave to their family. The fact of the matter, however, is that even the smallest estate can quickly become difficult to deal with for your loved ones if you haven’t set out exactly what your wishes are. As far as being too young is concerned, if the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything it’s that we never know what’s around the corner, so the answer to the question ‘Do I need a Will?’ is always going to be yes if you want total peace of mind.  

Why Do I Need A Will?

You need a will to set out exactly what you want to happen with the things you leave behind when you die. Many people assume, for example, that everything they leave will automatically pass to a spouse, or even to someone they’ve been cohabiting with for a long period of time, but these are both mistaken. A will could explain exactly which of your loved ones you want to leave specific items to, and how you want your estate to be divided. For larger estates worth more money the details of the will could have a big impact on how much inheritance tax needs to be paid, if any, and in some cases you might opt to leave money to a charity or to put money left to younger relatives in a trust until they are old enough to handle it sensibly. In simple terms, you need a will if you want control over how your loved ones are looked after when you die.   

What Happens If I Don’t Have A Will?

You may be wondering ‘do I need a will’ because of an assumption that most of what you leave behind in your estate will automatically pass on to your spouse. This is wrong, however, since without having written a will you have died ‘intestate’. This is a legal term, and it means that the estate you left behind is shared out along lines set out by the state. If you have a spouse or civil partner and no children, then the estate will pass to this person, but if you have any children the situation becomes more complex. In this case, having died intestate, the first £250,000 of your estate and your possessions will automatically be left to your spouse or civil partner. They will also receive half of any other money over £250,000. The rest of the estate – which could be a significant amount in some cases – will be divided equally between all of your children. 

The impact will be even more drastic for those people who have cohabited without getting married or entering into a civil partnership. People wondering ‘do I need a will’ may be assuming that the person they have lived with is a ‘common law partner’ and will therefore receive the bulk of the estate on the death of their partner. In legal terms, however, there is no such thing as a ‘common law partner’ and the cohabitee will be legally entitled to none of the estate, apart from those aspects – such as bank accounts and tenancies – which might have been held jointly. In a case like this without a will the estate will automatically be divided between any children of the deceased or even grandchildren or great grandchildren. Even in cases in which the children have been estranged from the deceased the cohabiting partner would still receive nothing while the children get the estate.       

Can A Will Expire?

In simple terms, no, a will does not have an expiry date on it. Provided it has been written, signed, dated and witnessed correctly, a will applies on the death of a person no matter how many years ago it was written. Having said that, however, it would be wise to review your will from time to time to see if changing circumstances mean it needs to be altered and updated.  

When Should I Update My Will?

Speaking generally, your will should be reviewed and updated every five years, and also following major life events such as the birth of a child or grandchild. An event which should definitely prompt a review of your will is a divorce or remarriage, as this is bound to complicate the question of who you want to leave your estate to. Other events which should prompt the review and updating of your will include moving to a new home, purchasing a second home or when someone named as a beneficiary or executor dies. In simple terms, anything which alters the value and make-up of your estate, or the balance of the family to whom you will be leaving things, should prompt you to take another look at your will.  

How Do I Write A Will?

Although it is possible to write a will using a template purchased on the high street or accessed online, the greatest peace of mind is likely to be offered by working with professionals like those at Higgins Miller. Any mistake in drafting the will, in choosing the executors and witnesses and in having the will signed or dated could lead to it being challenged in court. A challenge of this kind could cause huge stress for your surviving family members, as well as generating costs which eat into a large chunk of the estate in question. Making sure that the will is watertight in legal terms will provide total peace of mind, and at Higgins Miller we make things as simple as possible by offering a fixed fee will writing service. Working with experts means that you just have to explain what you would like to happen, and they can set that out in the correct legal terms.    If you’d like to find out more about ‘do I need a will’ please call us on 0161 429 7251 or email us at [email protected]. We’ve recently passed our Cyber Essential accreditation, something which demonstrates our forward-thinking attitude and determination to remain ahead of the competition. The first 20-minute appraisal is provided free of charge, and we’ll give you the first appointment for a fixed fee, so you don’t have to worry about how much our advice is going to cost. If you want to explore our wider charging system then please take a look here.

Do I Need A Will


September 15, 2022