October is Free Wills Month, so if you’ve yet to write a will, or you have one but haven’t reviewed it for several years, now’s the perfect time to make sure your wishes are up to date.
There are two Free Wills Months each year, in March and October, which are designed to encourage those who write a will using the scheme to leave a legacy to charity. Charities are heavily reliant on legacies to provide them with an income, and those behind Free Wills Month this year include the Stroke Association, Lifeboats, Marie Curie and Alzheimer’s Research UK.
The scheme is open to individuals or couples who are aged 55 or over. To take part, all you need to do is log onto the Free Wills Month website and leave your details and you’ll then be contacted with details of participating solicitors in your area. If you’re in a couple where one of you is younger than 55, you can still use the scheme to get a free joint will.
You aren’t obliged to leave a gift to charity if you take advantage of Free Wills Month, although you will be asked by the solicitor arranging your will if you want to.
Bear in mind that if your circumstances are particularly complicated, you may be charged a fee for your will, as Free Wills Month only covers the writing of ‘simple’ wills. Remember too that there aren’t a limitless number of appointments available, so if you want to take advantage, don’t hang around, as once they’re gone they’re gone.
Why write a will?
One in three adults aged 55 or over don’t have a will, according to research by Canada Life, often because they assume that their estate will automatically pass to who they want it to. However, if you die without having written a will, the laws of intestacy will apply, and your property and possessions may not go to the person or people you intended.
Laura Suter, head of personal finance at AJ Bell, said: “With families being more complicated now and people co-habiting but not being married or having children from different relationships it’s more important than ever to ensure that your money and assets are going to the right place when you die.”
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For example, if you live with your partner in England or Wales but aren’t married to them, and you die without a will, they have no legal right to inherit anything from you, even if you’ve been together for several decades.
Stacey Love, tax, trusts and estate planning technical manager at Canada Life said: “Even if you are young, getting a will drafted, signed, and witnessed should be on your bucket list, even if you don’t think you have any real wealth to pass on. Digital assets such as social media accounts and crypto have value – data is the new gold after all.
“Once you’ve completed your will, don’t just sit back and forget about it. Talk to your family, let them know where it is being kept. Also make sure to review it every couple of years - family circumstances change over time, and you need to make sure your will evolves too.”