More than half of British adults are leaving their loved ones in a financial mess by failing to draw up a will, new findings have shown.
Around 29.5 million people - 60 per cent of UK adults - are currently without a will, according to research from financial advice firm Unbiased.
And 11 per cent of those with a will have failed to update the documents in the past 10 years.
The sobering figures come during Free Wills Month, which sees charities offering a free will-writing service for older people.
If you don’t manage to sort your will out during October it doesn’t need to cost the earth: prices start from around £150.
Never too young
Despite cost not being a barrier many people simply don’t get around to doing it, while younger people often think they are too young to need one.
However, it’s important to start thinking about a will at an early stage in life to ensure you provide the best arrangements you can for those left behind once you’re gone.
Get a will for free
Free Wills Month runs from until the end of October and gives those aged 55 and over the opportunity to have their wills written or updated free of charge using a local solicitor.
This service is organised by a number of national charities in the hope of securing legacy gifts in wills.
Following this, November is Will Aid Month during which solicitors will draft free wills in exchange for a donation to charity.
Suggested minimum donations start at £85 for a single will, £125 for a will for a couple, and £40 for a change to an existing will.
Why do I need a will?
Many people wrongly assume that if you don’t have a will your estate will automatically go to your loved ones but this is not the case as your estate is distributed according to the laws of intestacy.
The rules of intestacy depend on the value of your estate, whether you are married, and if you have children.
“If you die without a will you don’t decide who gets what, the government does,” says Danny Cox from independent financial adviser Hargreaves Lansdown.
Making a will gives you peace of mind as you get to choose who you leave your assets to At the same time, a will can also help reduce tax bills.
“A will can be an effective vehicle for avoiding or reducing your liability to inheritance tax,” says Jonathan Tyler, partner at Seth Lovis & Co Solicitors.
If your financial affairs are simple, you could consider a DIY will.
You can pick up a DIY pack from as little as £10 at the supermarket or download one online.
But you need to think carefully before going down this route as it’s important to ensure there are no mistakes and that it is witnessed properly.
There are specialist will-writers around but bear in mind that these firms are not solicitors and are not regulated as legal services, which means you may not be able to seek redress if anything goes wrong.
Use a professional
A will is a legal document so it’s not worth cutting corners. You can pay a professional to write a will which is accurate, unambiguous and comprehensive.
To find a qualified solicitor, visit The Law Society website.
Keep it up-to-date
Once you’ve made a will, you need to keep a close eye on it and ensure it reflects any changes in your personal circumstances.
Review your will at major life events such as marriage, having children or getting divorced. You should also update it if your financial situation changes.
“It’s worth checking your will at least every couple of years, as this will ensure your will still accurately reflects your wishes,” says Stephanie Dunderdale from Clarion Solicitors.
She adds: “Updates can be made by a new will or a change known as a codicil.”