If you're looking to make a will but have been putting it off, then now is a good time to take action as it's Free Wills Month (opens in new tab) – which takes place every October and March and means free will writing services in return for a charity donation.
Three in five adults don’t have a will - that's 31 million people - according to financial company Canada Life (opens in new tab), but having one can save your family financial heartache as well as a potential inheritance tax bill.
Making your will is never going to be a ‘fun job', but here's how to make one for free and donate to charity at the same time.
Why you need to make a will
Making a will is your chance to say how you want your worldly goods, like your home, savings and personal items, shared out once you’re gone. You can include funeral wishes along with other special requests, say leaving individual items to certain people or saying who you’d like to look after your children and even your pets.
If you’ve already made a will, it’s a good idea to review it regularly, especially after big life changes, like getting married, having children, inheriting large sums of money or remarrying.
And be sure to tell your family you’ve made a will and where’s it’s kept. You don’t have to tell them what’s in it – but it can save a lot of heartache once you’re gone if they know which solicitor to contract or where your copy is kept.
What is Free Wills Month and how to get free will writing?
Making a ‘basic' will can cost from £150 - £250 according to MoneyHelper, (opens in new tab) a government-backed money and pensions website - but with Free Wills Month, your will can be written for free in the hope you’ll leave a charity donation in your will.
While there’s nothing to stop you writing your will yourself, as it’s a legal document, it must be signed and witnessed correctly or can be invalid, which is why it’s worth considering having one done professionally.
If you’re 55 or over, you can have your will made, or updated by a solicitor, free of charge during Free Wills Month.
This service is available across England, Northern Ireland or Wales and appointments can be made face to face, virtually or by phone.
This charity backed campaign takes place every March and October. If you use the service, it’s hoped you’ll leave a donation in your will, although there’s no obligation to do so.
If you do, you’ll be helping charities such as the British Heart Foundation, Mencap and Alzheimer’s Research UK
Some charities, including Cancer Research UK (opens in new tab), British Heart Foundation (opens in new tab) and Macmillan (opens in new tab) also offer their own free ‘will writing’ service in the hope you’ll leave them something in your will. These services usually run all year round.
If you don’t qualify for a free will during Free Wills month – or can’t get an appointment – you can book to have one drawn up during Will Aid (opens in new tab). This annual campaign takes place every November when participating solicitors waive their fees for a charity donation.
It’s open to everyone over eighteen who wants to make a basic will and charity donations are split between nine charities including the NSPCC, the British Red Cross and Age UK. The suggested donation amount is £100 for a basic single will or £180 for a couple drawing up basic mirror wills.
When you should pay for making a will
Charity will schemes are usually aimed at those wanting a basic will, which typically means leaving everything to your immediate family.
If you’ve got more complex affairs, say you’re remarried with children from a first marriage who you want to benefit, have a second home abroad, own a business, or need tax planning advice, you may be charged a fee for this.
If this is the case you’ll be told about this at your appointment or you may need to book an appointment outside the charity scheme.
If you think you have more complex needs regarding your will – you can find a solicitor using the ‘Find A Solicitor’ tool (opens in new tab) on the Law Society website.
If you die without leaving a will, it’s known as ‘dying intestate’, it makes sorting out your affairs more complicated.
This is because your property, money and possessions get divided up according to intestacy rules. This may mean those you wanted to inherit can’t, for example unmarried partners aren’t recognised under intestacy law. And if you’re married with children, the rules state certain limits on who gets what.
So in this case, your spouse or civil partner would inherit all your personal property along with the first £270,000 of your ‘estate’ and then get half of the remaining value of the estate – with the other half divided equally between any children.
In the worst case, if you don’t have a will or any family, your entire estate could end up in the government’s coffers.
If you are planning on making use of Free Wills Month, act fast, as there are limited appointments and they go quick.
Sue Hayward is a personal finance and consumer journalist, broadcaster and author who regularly chats on TV and Radio on ways to get more power for your pound. Sue’s written for a wide range of publications including the Guardian, i Paper, Good Housekeeping, Lovemoney and My Weekly. Cats, cheese and travel are Sue’s passions away from her desk!