11 Myths About Making A Will Debunked

sarah ryan
Sarah RyanAccount Manager @ Lawhive & Non-Practising Solicitor
Updated on 30th November 2023

Thinking of making a will? Brace yourself for lots of myths that could muddy the waters!

Why is this a problem? Well, common misconceptions might confuse you when it comes to making such an important decision about your wishes.

11-myths-about-making-a-will-debunked

In this article, we're tackling not just one but 11 myths about making a will. From thinking a simple chat about what you want is enough to assuming wills are just for the wealthy, we're here to help you make smart choices about your legacy.

Top 11 myths about making a will

Myths, in general, can be cool stories that help us make sense of the world. However, when it comes to the serious stuff like finances or wills, trusts and probate, tall tales really don't help you make an informed decision.

Wills, in particularly, tend to get tangled up in myths, making people wonder if it's even worth putting their wishes on paper. The truth is, everyone should make a will to be sure their final wishes are honoured. So, what's stopping you from putting yours down in black and white?

"My spouse will inherit everything, anyway."

You might have heard the myth that if you're married, your spouse automatically gets everything. But this isn't strictly true, unless you make a will that lists your spouse as a sole beneficiary.

If you don't have a will, who inherits what isn't as clear cut as this.

When you die without a will, your assets are distributed according to the rules of intestacy, which is basically a set hierarchy that decides who gets what.

While it's true that your spouse is the first in line to inherit under this rule, that's not the full story.

If the value of your estate exceeds £270,000 and you don't have a will, then your spouse inherits the first £270,000 only. Anything above this is then passed to your closest living relative (i.e. children, parents, siblings etc) depending on your situation.

In short, if you don't make a will and what you leave behind is worth more than £270,000, you don't get a say in who gets what's left over. It's decided for you by the rues of intestacy, regardless of your relationship with those family members.

It's also worth pointing out that if you're not married, your partner will get nothing if you die without a will. This is also true if you are divorced and die without making a will. Your ex-partner will not inherit under these rules, either.

"My children will be looked after by family."

You might have already talked with your family about who'll take care of your young children if something happens to you. But without stating it in a will, the court is the one with the power to make the final call on legal guardianship.

Even if your chosen family member of friend is willing to step in, the courts have the final say on who they think is the best fit.

Making a will lets you decide exactly who becomes the guardian for your children if there's no surviving parent. Plus, you can name trustees to manage the money you want to pass on to your kids as inheritance, too. For those with older children, a will can also prevent potential disputes cropping up between children around sibling inheritance rights, especially for blended families.

"I’m too young to make a will."

With a long to do list, making a will always seems like something for the future, never something front of mind. But making a will is something every adult should do as soon as possible. 

Once you reach the age of 18 you are legally able to create a will, and you should do so straight away.

You never know what might happen in the future, so it’s important to create a will and ensure your loved ones are looked after. Even if you think you have nothing to give, your will can include your burial wishes and what to do with your belongings.

"A will is set in stone once it's made."

The idea that once you've written your will it's set in stone is not the case at all. In fact, your will can be quite flexible.

You have the power to make changes to your will whenever you see fit. In fact, it's highly recommended, especially when big things happen in your life like getting married, divorced, or buying a property.

Small changes can be made to a will making a codicil. However, if you're making substantial amendments, it might be more effective to create a new will altogether to avoid any confusion and make sure your wishes are clear and up to date.

"I don’t have anything to leave behind."

One of the biggest myths surrounding wills, is you only need one if you’re wealthy. This couldn’t be further from the truth. 

A will clarifies your wishes about:

  • Your funeral arrangements;

  • Your house;

  • Your possessions;

  • Your donations to charity;

  • Your wishes to appoint a guardian for children;

  • Your pets.

Regardless of your wealth or possessions, a will serves an important purpose. It's not just about what happens to your stuff; it's about making your wishes known and ensuring a smooth process for your loved ones.

Even if you think your estate will be modest, a will allows you to outline your wishes in full. Moreover, without a will, intestacy laws come into play, and the distribution of your estate might not align with your intentions.

Everyone, regardless of their financial situation, should consider making a will to ensure their wishes are respected and the process is as straightforward as possible for those left behind.

"Making a will is too complicated."

Creating a will doesn't have to be an overly complex or daunting task. In fact, nowadays it can be done quite easily from the comfort of your own home.

If you do find the idea daunting, a qualified professional, like a solicitor, can help simplify the process for you to make sure your will reflects your intentions and is correctly witnessed in order to be valid.

If you do decide to take the plunge and write a will we’ve created a guide on things to never include in a will to help you.

"An executor can’t be a beneficiary of a will."

In the UK, there's no law that says an executor can't also be a beneficiary of a will. In fact, this arrangement often makes practical sense, especially when the executor is a trusted family member of friend.

Therefore, it's quite common for executors of a will to also benefit from it.

However, some testators may make the decision to spare their loved ones from having to take the lead on the distribution of their estate and appoint a solicitor as an executor as well. This can be particularly beneficial in more complex estates or situations (such as contentious probate) where impartiality is important.

"If I write a will, probate won’t be needed."

There's a common belief that if you write a will, you won't need to apply for probate. That's not quite accurate.

Probate, the legal process for handling someone's estate after they pass away, is often necessary, even with a will.

While having a will helps in the probate process by providing clear instructions, it doesn't eliminate the need for probate. Reasons why a probate application might not be necessary are more likely to relate to assets being jointly held or if the estate is valued under a certain amount (i.e. an excepted estate).

"My family knows what I want so I don’t need to make a will."

Talking openly with your loved ones about your wishes is important, but relying solely on verbal agreements or assumptions can lead to complications. However, a will is a legally binding document that ensures your wishes are not only known but enforceable by law.

Without a will, what happens to your money, property and children after you die might not align with what you wanted. Particularly the distribution of your assets, which will follow the default rules we've mentioned in the absence of a valid will.

"I’ve already made a will, so that’s the job done."

Making a will once might not be enough. Your circumstances could change, you could get remarried, bring a pet into your home and any other number of changes could take place from the moment you make your initial will.

The law might change too meaning you’ll need to reframe your wishes. Regularly reassessing your will and making changes where necessary will help you get what you want after you die. 

"You need a solicitor to make a will."

While solicitors provide valuable expertise, and their guidance can be particularly beneficial in complex situations, it is not a legal requirement to use a solicitor to create a will. Individuals can make a valid will on their own, using widely available templates or online services.

However, a word of caution. DIY wills may lack the legal perspective and personalised advice a solicitor can provide. Complex family structures and relationships, high value estates and assets, or specific wishes way warrant professional assistance to ensure validity and clarity.

Get help with your will from Lawhive

If you need any help with making a will, you can find the UK’s best solicitors and lawyers for fixed fees at Lawhive.

To get started, request a free case assessment and no obligation quote today to see how we can help.

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