No one likes to face their own mortality, and bringing up their approaching death might not go down so well with our nearest and dearest. But no matter how unpleasant it is to discuss these things, it’s considerably more unpleasant when a person dies without a will, and their loved ones have to deal with the aftermath without any legal protection or indication of the person’s wishes.
Why do you need a will?
The only way to make sure you get a say in how your worldly possessions are divided, and any dependants are looked after when you’re gone, is to make a will. This is particularly important if you have children – who will look after them if you die? A will is also crucial if you aren’t married to your partner – without a will, they get nothing. In some cases, making a will can also help you avoid inheritance tax.
Apart from the natural aversion to thinking about death, another reason many people put off making a will is the cost. It’s true that a will, and especially more complicated wills, can cost hundreds or even thousands of pounds in solicitor’s fees. Luckily there is a way to get a professionally written will for free. And as it happens, this is the perfect time to do it!
For those over 55: Free Wills Month in March and October (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland)
October is Free Wills Month, and if you’re over 55 and live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, this is the perfect time to get a will written. If you’re a couple, only one of you needs to be over 55 to qualify for free mirror wills (where your wills are essentially copies of each other).
The purpose of this campaign is to help charities raise vital funds to finance their work – according to the Free Wills Month website “most UK charities depend on legacies for up to half their income”. The hope is that if you choose to get a will drawn up as part of Free Wills Month, you will also leave a gift to one of the participating charities (the list includes the National Trust, Prostate Cancer UK, and the British Heart Foundation), but you are under no obligation to do so. If you choose to make a donation, the amount is completely up to you.
Hundreds of law firms take part in this campaign every March and October – just enter your details on the campaign website to find participating firms nearby. Once you have found a suitable solicitor you can contact them to make an appointment for Free Wills Month. Do note that appointments are made on a first come, first served basis, and as this is a very popular service they may fill up before the end of the month. But if you do miss out this time around, make sure to make a note in your diary for when the campaign is back in March!
For all ages: Will Aid in November (UK-wide)
If you don’t fit the criteria for Free Wills Month, don’t worry! November is just around the corner, and with November comes Will Aid.
Similar to Free Wills Month, Will Aid is a campaign where nine UK charities (including Age UK, NSPCC, and the British Red Cross) have teamed up with solicitors throughout the country to offer free wills with the hope to receive a donation in return – the suggestion is £100 for a single will and £180 for mirror wills.
Hundreds of solicitors take part in this campaign every November. Use the solicitor search tool to find out which firms close to you are taking part and contact them to make a Will Aid appointment for November.
As well as these campaigns taking place in specific months, there are also some charities and law firms who offer a free will-writing service all year round. If you have a particular charity or solicitor in mind, it’s worth contacting them to see if they offer free wills and who qualifies. You can also take a look at the National Free Wills Network, which includes both large national charities and smaller local or regional ones.
All free will schemes tend to only cover basic wills, but this will suit most people’s needs: dividing up your property when you die, naming a guardian for any children you have, and choosing the executor, i.e. the person who will make sure your will is carried out.
Making plans for what will happen to your property when you die is no pleasant task, but when the day comes, your loved ones will be relieved that you took the time to put a will in place.
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