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What is a will and why do you need one?

You may have heard about them, and even been told you need one – but exactly what is a will? And why is it important to get one in place?

Ok, so it’s fair to say that nobody likes to think of their own mortality, but one day, unfortunately, the inevitable will happen and you’ll shuffle off this mortal coil… then what happens to all your stuff?!

Maybe you don’t feel it really matters, but when you stop to consider your loved ones, the question of ‘what is a will’ suddenly holds more meaning – because ultimately, a will is more about having some protection in place for them.

What is a will and testament used for?

Commonly known as it’s more full and traditional name of ‘last will and testament’, a will is a legally binding document that provides information on what you want to happen to your assets after you die, including things such as:

  • Your home or other owned property
  • Other high-value assets such as your car, or perhaps even antiques or paintings
  • Family heirlooms or special, personal possessions

These items are known as your ‘estate’, but a will isn’t just about money and items of worth though.
Your will must also provide the details of an ‘executor’ – a person (or persons) you select who take responsibility for ensuring that your will is honoured.  You can choose anyone you like, from a solicitor to a close friend or relative.

What else is a will for?

Your will is also an important document if you have children under the age of 18 – otherwise, apart from perhaps an informal conversation over dinner at some point, who knows who you want to take care of them? By creating a will, you can assign someone you trust to become their legal guardian upon your death, so you can be sure they’ll always be taken care of.

A will is also the place where you can state your wishes in regards to what happens to your body after passing e.g. do you wish to be buried or cremated? What kind of ceremony do you want? Is there a specific song you want to be played, or a verse that you want to be read to the congregation?

What if you don’t make a will?

When someone dies without having made a will, they’re considered to have died ‘intestate’ –this can also refer to a portion of your estate that has been left out of the will if you’ve previously made one but haven’t updated it to reflect changes in your personal, financial circumstances.

If you don’t make a will, then the distribution of your assets will be decided according to the laws of the country you live in. In the UK, any surviving spouse will be given the full estate, and if you don’t leave a spouse, then it will be shared between any children. This hierarchal organisation carries through parents, siblings and even aunts or uncles, and works in a strict order.

If you don’t have any surviving relatives, then everything will automatically go to the Crown e.g. the reigning monarch – maybe it would be better to make a will and leave it to a charity organisation that means something to you instead?

Your will, your way

So while the question of ‘what is a will and testament’ is an important one to ask, it’s perhaps more important to understand what happens if you don’t have one.

Long, protracted and emotionally stressful probate cases can follow your demise if your wishes aren’t made clear and transparent in a will – so save your family further potential heartache by making a will right away… our online will writing service only takes a small amount of time and costs a small amount of money too.

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