Wills are not a thing that only the older generation need. Life is fragile, and if the worst happens you will want to know those closest to you will benefit from the assets you have built up. Although 45% of the UK has a will, a YouGov survey for Barnardo’s showed that 74% of under 55s have yet to make one.
It is a common fallacy that upon death, your assets will pass to your partner. If you are married, then this is correct. If you hold a joint bank account or are joint tenants, then survivorship will apply, and these will pass to them. But everything else you own will pass in accordance with intestacy laws. If you have children, this will go to them, but if not, it could be your parents, siblings or even wider family who benefit. This will happen even if you do have a partner and can leave them in financial distress. An example of this is with the death of 28-year-old DJ and music producer Avicii, who left a £20 million-pound fortune which under Swedish intestacy laws – which are similar to the UK’s – passed to his parents.
So, what is a will? Well, it sets out who will be the executor of your estate. The executor is the person who deals with your assets and ensures those you have named get what you wanted them to have. A will also sets out what goes to whom and is what the executor follows.
Having a will means that you can choose who benefits. You can leave money for your children to receive when they reach 18. You may wish for your sibling to have your car. You may wish to set some money aside for your parents. It can also be used to set out any funeral arrangements.
For the younger generation in this digital age, there are assets you might not have thought of. For example, who does your iTunes account go to? You might have invested hundreds or thousands of pounds into compiling your library; do you want that to go to waste? What happens with your PayPal account and its funds? Do you run a successful account on eBay and want that to pass to some specific? Do you run an online account on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram and wish for someone to continue to run it in the event of your death?
If you do have children, then you can appoint a guardian to care for them if they are under 18 in the event both parents have died. Failure to do this means if the worst happens, there may be fighting and dispute over whom should look after your children, and they may end up with someone you feel would not be right for them.
As you can see, wills can cover a wide range of things and can ensure that after you pass, your assets go to those you want them to.
However, it is vital that any will you have is legally valid. Otherwise, it will not apply and could cause long-running disputes to begin. Therefore, you should always seek professional advice to give you real peace of mind.