The prospect of making your own will can seen a morbid one; and that's one of the reasons most of us just don't bother.
In fact 70% of parents with children under eighteen don't have a will, according to the financial advice website www.unbiased.co.uk. But while time, money and just never getting around to it may be our stock excuses; the harsh reality is that without a will, if anything happened to you, your family may not automatically inherit your worldly goods.
Who gets what if I don't make a will?
If you die without making a will, it's known as dying 'intestate' and in the worst case scenario it could mean your family facing a legal battle to prove they've a right to inherit your belongings.
If you're married, without a will, all your money (up to £250,000) automatically goes to your surviving spouse, which can mean your children, and those from any previous relationships missing out.
If you're not married to your partner, but have children together, 'it's actually your children who may benefit first, before your partner', warns Valerie Shiman from Parchment Wills, a member of the Institute of Professional Will Writers.
Who would look after my children?
Without a will, more complex still, is the issue of who brings up your children. Let's say you've got children from a previous relationship but since remarried, even if your new partner has readily taken on the 'step parent' role, it's the childrens' 'biological parent' who can become their legal guardian.
And as a single parent it's even more important to specify who you want to look after your children if you die. If your child's other parent can't be traced, social services could step in ahead of grandparents or uncles and aunts.
Even if you've already made a will setting down your wishes, big life changes like remarrying, getting divorced or inheriting money yourself mean you should regularly update and review your will.
How much does it cost to make a will?
You're looking at around £100 for a very simple one to around £400 for a more complex will, say if you've remarried and got children from previous relationships who you want to benefit. Some solicitors charge by the hour, while others operate a fixed fee service for wills and prices do vary around the country.
And if you don't have one, take advantage of next month's 'Will Aid', when over one thousand solicitors across the country will be waiving their usual fees in return for you making a donation to charity.
Who can I ask to draw up my will?
A solicitor can do it for you, but they all specialise in different aspects of the law, so the one who helped you buy your house or finalise your divorce may not be the right one to draw up your will. Best bet is to contact the Law Society for details of local solicitors who specialise in will writing. Or you can use an independent 'Will Writer' but do check they're a member of the Institute of Professional Will Writers first.
What about DIY will kits?
Nothing to stop you using a DIY will kit; and you can pick up one for around £10 from places like www.amazon.co.uk but legal experts don't advise this or using online will writing sites unless you really know what you're doing as there's nobody to offer you advice or check that it's been signed and witnessed correctly. And as a will is a legal document, mistakes may be costly, so it's worth paying a professional to do the job properly.
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