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Why you should make a will this November

If you haven’t made a will or the one you have is out of date, November will bring an opportunity to put matters right.

The annual Will Aid campaign is running throughout the month: this gives people the chance to have a will drawn up by a professional in return for a donation to one of a number of charities.

Will Aid explained

The campaign suggests donations of £95 for a basic will or £150 for a pair of basic “mirror wills” which would be suitable for a married couple – but in theory, it is entirely up to you how much you pay.

To take advantage of the scheme, you need to sign up on the Will Aid website, giving your name and postcode. Subsequently, a local solicitor will get in touch to get things rolling. The charities supported by Will Aid include the NSPCC, Save the Children, Age UK and the British Red Cross.

Of course, the campaign’s success depends largely on the generosity of a nationwide network of solicitors – but bear in mind that their decision to take part may not be purely altruistic. Will Aid can provide them with access to new clients, who they might be able to sell extra services too in future.

The importance of making a will

Nonetheless, the campaign is an excellent idea, particularly considering how important it can be to have an accurate, up-to-date will – as well as how many people never quite get around to drawing one up.

Lots of us assume that, if we were to die without a will, our assets would simply pass on to our spouse or children. This may generally be the case, but there are lots of potential issues that a will can deal with.

For example, where particularly large estates are concerned, if someone died intestate, the law states that some of their assets would pass to their spouse but some would be inherited directly by their children. This could however result in a significant inheritance tax bill, as bequests to husbands, wives or civil partners are tax free – but any money passed to children is taxable.

Looking after minors and heirs

A will can also stipulate who looks after any minors in the event of the death of both parents, as well as give specific instructions as to who gets any family heirlooms or other valuable items.

A legal expert can also give advice on how you can minimise your heirs’ potential tax bill, for example by setting up trusts. Will Aid can also provide the chance to amend or update any existing wills, which might be necessary if you have recently been divorced, say, or have had children since the original was written.

Time for an upgrade?

Finally, if your existing will was created using a cut-price, off-the-shelf service bought online or on the high street, Will Aid month could be an opportunity to get some expert advice on whether this document is sufficiently water-tight in legal terms.