Despite their importance, a lot of people are operating under incorrect assumptions about wills. In an ideal world, we would all recognise the necessity of writing a will – and of working with an experienced solicitor to ensure that it runs no risk of being contested or ruled invalid after we die.
Unfortunately, misconceptions prevail – and far too many people die with an invalid will (or no will at all) each year in the UK.
Here are some of the biggest misconceptions, and why they can be so dangerous if unchallenged.
Myth #1: A will is only necessary for big, complex estates
You can thank TV for this one since it loves to further the idea that a will is bound up in lofty ideas of succession – big families gathered in the drawing room, eyeing one another up for their share of the estate.
In reality, wills are important for any family, whether there’s a collection of original Picassos in the study or not. A will is there to sort through the entirety of your estate – money, property, assets that have a high sentimental or monetary value, pets, businesses, investments…
Complexity is a matter of perspective. It’s more important to consider the people who will value that roadmap for inheritance, rather than the number of zeros in your savings account.
Myth #2: A can’t go out of date
This can be very damaging. A lot of people assume that, after writing a will, they can let it sit on the proverbial shelf and more or less forget about it indefinitely. In some cases, this may be possible, but it’s never a good idea.
For starters, a will can go ‘out of date’ if you choose to get married. After your wedding, your old will can no longer be considered valid, and you’ll need to draft a new one with your solicitor. If not, you will be considered intestate when you die.
Divorce doesn’t have the same effect – it merely means that your ex-spouse will not inherit anything from your existing will, even if they were expressly mentioned. You can make a note in the will stating that, even in the case of divorce, you intend for your spouse/ex to inherit, but it’s usually simpler to just draft a new will.
What’s more, any significant changes to your estate will make the will less useful for your loved ones than it once was. Coming into a large sum of money, for instance, or acquiring a new property won’t make your will invalid, but it will mean that it’s no longer able to account for the length and breadth of your estate.
Any big life changes should be used as a sign to revisit your will. If not, you may leave your loved ones with no other option than to work with will dispute solicitors to see your true wishes carried out.
Myth #3: You can just add a note in the margin for small changes
There’s no such thing as tweaking or amending a will. When you need to account for a change – for instance, a new beneficiary, an existing beneficiary who has passed away, a new asset or a change in your request for the funeral – you will need to create a new will. It may be very similar to the one that came before, but it needs to be new all the same.
Myth #4: You’re too young to need a will
While it may not be needed for decades – and, in that time, may undergo many updates – a will is a vital document for any adult. If you have your own money, any dependents, or own a home or business, then you’ll want to ensure that you are putting the right plans in place for your family.
Dying intestate doesn’t just leave loved ones feeling as though they can’t have proper closure, it also means they could face long delays as your estate is sorted through by the courts according to the rules of intestacy.