A will is a legal document that sets out how you want the things you own to be distributed when you die. Making a will is a positive step you can take to:
- provide for the people you care about
- leave particular items to certain people
- appoint a person you trust to carry out the instructions in your will (your executor)
- leave any other instructions you may have (for example, about your funeral arrangements)
- make a gift to charity if you wish.
Making a will removes the doubts and difficulties that can arise when there is no evidence of the deceased person’s wishes.
If you don’t have a will, you don’t have any say about how your estate is distributed. If you die without a will your estate will be distributed to your relatives according to a legal formula (called the ‘intestacy rules’). This could be very different from what you wanted or intended to happen.
Dying ‘intestate’ can also cause complications, delays and extra costs for those you leave behind. If you die intestate and you don’t have any relatives closer than a first cousin, your estate will go to the government.
A will only takes effect after you have died. If you want someone to look after or make decisions about your finances while you are still alive but become unable to do this yourself you will need to make an enduring power of attorney.