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Lifestyle

Do I need a will?

Discover why it's so important to leave a will...

It’s a fact that over 60% of the UK population don’t have a will and nearly half of those without wills are over 55.

2019 Britain is a very diverse place. For example, more than a 25% of marriages in the UK are second marriages and 12.3% of the population are co-habiting. Which can mean we’re unclear on what rights we have if our partner passes away without a will.

We spoke to Helen Hill, an expert Estate Planning and Legal Services Director at The Planning Crowd to find out why writing a will and Lasting Power of Attorney is so important. Here’s what she had to say:

Why do I need a will?

Right now, having a will is the only way to guarantee that your wishes will be carried out after your death. Without a will, strict rules apply that dictate who can administer your estate and who receives your assets. This may not be the people of your choice and it may not be the way that you would have wished your money and possessions to be distributed. 

Dying without a will is known as dying ‘intestate’. When this happens the Rules of Intestacy written in 1925 must be followed. As you would expect with rules dating back nearly 100 years they’re outdated and often don’t reflect people’s wishes today.

When should I make a will?

The simple answer is right now. Planning ahead is always beneficial regardless of your age. For many of us a significant life event prompts us to finally write our wills, whether it’s a new baby, a new home, a change in our relationship status or the loss of a loved one. But why wait? Having everything organised and in place gives you immediate peace of mind knowing that you have done the very best by the people you love.

Can I write a will myself and how do I write it?

Yes, anyone can write their own will, there are even templates for sale on the internet. But you should only consider this if your will is going to be straightforward. For your will to be legally binding it must comply with the terms of the Wills Act and if you’re writing your own will a simple error could mean your will is invalid or difficult to administer without the involvement of a Court.

Using a professional organisation who have qualified and trained Will Writing teams ensures your will is both valid and can be carried out to the letter.

How do I make sure my will is valid?

It is estimated that up to 5 million people have a will that is no longer valid. So, as your circumstances change over time it’s important to keep reviewing your will. The Government recommends that you review it every 5 years and when a big lifetime event occurs, such as getting married, divorced or if someone you intended to leave part of your estate to dies. You will can also be updated to included new family members.

What is a power of attorney and why do I need it?

We all want to live long and healthy lives. If you’re  a Benenden Health Member, you are already making your health and wellbeing a priority. However, there are occasions where you may be unable to manage your affairs personally due to incapacity, whether through an accident, physical or mental illness. In these instances, it’s essential that you create a Lasting Power of Attorney.

Lasting Power of Attorney is the authorisation that enables your chosen individual, known as an Attorney, to legally conduct your personal affairs on your behalf. Without a Lasting Power of Attorney no-one, including your spouse or partner, would have the legal authority to manage your personal affairs. This would include paying your bills, looking after your banking, managing your investments, caring for your property or looking after your business.

For your family members trying to assist you the impact of not having this document in place can be devastating. The only alternative is an application to the Court of Protection for permission to act via a Deputy Order. This is an expensive and lengthy route. It may be months before you family can access your funds and insurance policies to help with your care or even claim benefits on your behalf.

Setting up a power of attorney

A power of attorney must be created whilst you are mentally capable of doing so. Planning and producing a Lasting Power of Attorney allows you to appoint trustworthy persons, giving them clear instructions and setting boundaries as to how you want them to handle your affairs if you are unable to in the future.

Benenden Health employee, Deborah Hobden shared the difficulties she faced having to go through the courts to get power of attorney to support her parents.

Do I need a solicitor?

No, you don’t have to use a solicitor, but if you are writing your own will it’s advisable to get a solicitor to check it. A solicitor can provide both Wills and Lasting Power of Attorney and of course going through a solicitor ensures your documents are written by qualified professionals. However, a solicitor will charge for their services and their costs will reflect the complexity of your will. You should check what you will be charged before they start any work.

Researching companies comparing prices and reading customer reviews can help you create the will that’s right for you. Be mindful to check that anyone you deal with is recognised by professional bodies such as the Institute of Paralegals or STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) so that you can be sure they are fully qualified to produce your documents.

Learn more

If you have found yourself affected by bereavement and are struggling with grief, Benenden Health members can call the Mental Health Helpline. The helpline can offer 24 hour support from a qualified therapist during this difficult time.

The Planning Crowd are an award-winning Legal Services team who are offering Benenden Health members up to 50% off Wills and Lasting Power of Attorney, plus up to £15 of M&S vouchers.