Save, make, understand money


March is Free Wills Month – here’s why you need a will

March is Free Wills Month – here’s why you need a will
Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

A number of charities offer free will writing for people aged 55 or over through participating solicitors in both March and October each year.

To take part, visit the Free Wills Month website and type in your postcode to find out which solicitors are taking part in your local area and book an appointment. Appointments are limited and are allocated on a first-come first-served basis, so it’s best to book with your chosen solicitor as soon as you can.

Free Wills Month only covers the cost of simple wills. If the will is more complex and needs additional work, the solicitor may ask you to pay the balance yourself.

Having an up-to-date will is the best way to ensure your wishes are followed and your loved ones are looked after. You can also leave something special with a gift in your will to your chosen charities.

It’s especially important that people in certain circumstances – such as cohabiting but not married, with dependent children, or worried about inheritance tax (IHT) – make a will.

Olly Cheng, associate director at Saunderson House, which is part of Rathbones Group, said: “Writing a will can seem a daunting prospect. There’s often a lot to consider, including what wealth and assets you have, such as property, and pensions, as well as who you want to benefit from your will.

“While it can seem an easy task to put off, it is one of the most important things you can do, not only for yourself but your loved ones as well, giving you peace of mind that your affairs are in order.”

Will writing tips

  • Ensure your will is valid

It’s important to make sure your will is legally valid. If it’s not, it could lead to a number of problems in the future. Firstly, you must be aged 18 or over, it must be voluntarily written and signed by you with two witnesses present who are also over 18, and you must have the mental capacity to write the will, understand what you are doing, and know the effects of the will.

  • Be aware of IHT thresholds

The nil-rate band means that the first £325,000 of chargeable transfers are taxed at 0%, so are effectively tax-free. There is also a main residence nil-rate band of up to £175,000 subject to certain conditions, such as leaving property to your direct descendants and the total estate being under £2m.

Anything over the available nil-rate bands can incur IHT, which is ordinarily 40%. However, if you leave everything over this limit to your spouse or civil partner then you can save on any potential IHT.

  • Consider gifting to charities

Leaving a financial gift to charity is exempt from IHT, so it’s worth considering as a way of reducing your bill. If 10% of your net estate is left to charity, the rate of IHT applicable on death is reduced from 40% to 36%.

  • Keep your will up to date

It is recommended you revisit your will every five years or upon any ‘life moment’ changes you go through, such as buying a property, getting married, having children, or if you were to go through a divorce or bereavement.

  • Think of your immediate family

Firstly, if you have a partner – whether you are married, in a civil partnership, or a cohabiting couple – it’s important to understand what may happen to the other if one of you were to pass away.

Unmarried couples are largely unprotected if one should die. Unlike for married couples or those in a civil partnership, there is no legal right to property not jointly owned. If children are involved, this could also mean that your partner risks not being able to stay in the family home or not having enough money to bring up your children.

Related: Two-thirds of Brits in the dark over inheritance tax rules