Introduction

Talk Money Week, an annual campaign dedicated to promoting financial awareness and education, serves as an excellent opportunity to address a critical aspect of personal finance: the necessity of organising one’s financial affairs through a will. In this essay, I will delve into the significance of Talk Money Week and the compelling reasons why individuals should prioritise creating a will. Furthermore, I will explore the dire consequences that can ensue when one passes away without a will in place.

Talk Money Week: A Timely Reminder

Talk Money Week, celebrated annually, serves as a timely reminder of the importance of financial literacy and prudent financial planning. Organised by financial institutions, government bodies, and non-profit organisations, this event aims to foster conversations about money management, estate planning, and financial well-being. The initiative underscores the value of informed decision-making regarding personal finance, which includes creating a comprehensive and legally binding will.

Why does will matter?

A will, often referred to as a “last will and testament,” is a legal document that outlines how an individual’s assets and possessions will be distributed upon passing. It serves as a sort of roadmap for the executor of the estate.  A will offers several compelling reasons for its creation:

  • Control over Asset Distribution: One of the primary reasons for having a will is the ability to dictate precisely how your assets are distributed. This ensures that your wishes are honoured and that your loved ones receive the inheritance you desire.
  • Appointing Guardians for Minor Children: Parents can use a will to suggest guardians for their minor children. This can ensure that, in the event of their untimely passing, the children’s care is entrusted to a responsible and chosen individual.  This is something we can all overlook in the glory days of welcoming your new bundle of joy into your life, but it really is something of great importance.
  • Minimising Family Disputes: Without a will, disputes among surviving family members can escalate, leading to potentially costly legal battles. A well-structured will can help prevent such conflicts and maintain family harmony during what would be a very challenging time, even without any family disputes.
  • Efficient Probate Process: A properly drafted will can expedite the probate process, reducing administrative burdens and legal costs for the beneficiaries.
  • Tax Planning: A will can also incorporate tax-efficient strategies to minimise the tax liability of your estate, preserving more of your wealth for your beneficiaries.  This is something a legal expert in this field could discuss with you.  You may hear your neighbour down the road discussing things such as ‘Trusts’ or ‘Lifetime Gifts’, and you may be curious to see if you could benefit from timely planning and great consideration of the same.
  • Charitable Bequests: If you have charitable inclinations, a will allows you to leave assets to your preferred charities or causes, leaving a lasting legacy.  You may already support a charity during your life; why not leave a parting gift for them?  Many charities are in desperate need of support, and you could be helping out many by leaving something to them in your will. There are also tax advantages to leaving a percentage of your estate to charity, and this is something we at Hansells could happily discuss with you.

The Consequences of Dying Without a Will

While the significance of having a will is clear, it is equally important to understand the consequences of dying without one. When an individual passes away intestate (without a will), the UK’s laws and regulations dictate the distribution of their assets, which, of course, is something that many of you may not be so happy with.

Here are some potential ramifications of dying without a will:

  • Assets Distributed According to Intestacy Laws: In the absence of a will, the distribution of assets follows the intestacy laws of the state. This may not align with your wishes and could lead to assets going to unintended beneficiaries.  This can be unfortunate if, for example, there is a family fallout, you want to benefit a partner that you are not married to or in a civil partnership, or you have children who are not legally yours.
  • Delayed Probate Proceedings: The probate process for intestate estates can be more time-consuming and costly due to the varying complexities of an intestate estate, which is not ideal for a family who is grieving.  As aforementioned, a will serves as a roadmap to the deceased’s wishes and without a map there can be untimely delays!
  • Family Disputes: The absence of a clear will can result in disagreements among family members about asset distribution, leading to strained relationships and legal disputes.
  • Potential for Unintended Beneficiaries: Without a will, distant relatives or even estranged family members may inherit assets, while those you intended to benefit are excluded.  Although wishes may change throughout your life and a will can be updated, the Intestacy Rules remain the same.
  • Lack of Guardian Designation: If you have minor children, the court will decide on their guardianship, potentially disregarding your preferences, and this can be heartbreaking for the surviving family and children.

Conclusion

Talk Money Week serves as a valuable reminder of the importance of financial literacy and prudent financial planning, with the creation of a will being a central component of such planning. A will provides individuals with control over their assets, the ability to protect their l