Advice: Why do I need to make a will?

Pat Hutchinson MBE.
Pat Hutchinson MBE.

By Pat Hutchinson MBE, District Manager, Citizens Advice Newtownabbey

Q: I am 55 and living with my partner, we jointly own our home and we have £5,000 savings. Do I need to make a will?

A: It is important for you to make a will whether or not you consider you have many possessions or much money. It is important to make a will because:-

- If you die without a will, there are certain rules which dictate how the money, property or possessions should be allocated. This may not be the way that you would have wished your money and possessions to be distributed.

- Unmarried partners and partners who have not registered a civil partnership cannot inherit from each other unless there is a will, so the death of one partner may create serious financial problems for the remaining partner

- If you have children, you will need to make a will so that arrangements for the children can be made if either one or both parents die

- It may be possible to reduce the amount of tax payable on the inheritance if advice is taken in advance and a will is made

- If your circumstances have changed, it is important that you make a will to ensure that your money and possessions are distributed according to your wishes.

It is generally advisable to use a solicitor or to have a solicitor check a will you have drawn up to make sure it will have the effect you want. This is because it is easy to make mistakes and, if there are errors in the will, this can cause problems after your death. You should remember that a solicitor will charge for their services in drawing up or checking a will.

To save time and reduce costs when going to a solicitor, you should give some thought to the major points which you want included in your will. You should consider such things as:-

- How much money and what property and possessions you have, for example, property, savings, occupational and personal pensions, insurance policies, bank and building society accounts, shares

- Who you want to benefit from your will. You should make a list of all the people to whom you wish to leave money or possessions. These people are known as beneficiaries. You also need to consider whether you wish to leave any money to charity who should look after children under 18.

- Who is going to sort out the estate and carry out your wishes as set out in the will? These people are known as the executors.

Executors are the people who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes and for sorting out the estate. They will have to collect together all the assets of the estate, deal with all the paperwork and pay all the debts, taxes, funeral and administration costs out of money in the estate. They will need to pay out the gifts and transfer any property to beneficiaries.

Get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens Advice – or go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk/nireland Call at: Citizens Advice Newtownabbey, Dunanney Centre, Rathmullan Drive, Rathcoole, Newtownabbey, BT37 9DQ. Telephone advice is available 9am – 4pm each day 028 90852271 (Lunch 1:00 - 1:30pm), email advice is available on enewtownabbey@citizensadvice.co.uk