If you're looking to make a will but have been putting it off, then now is a good time to take action as Free Wills Month (opens in new tab) kicks in next month (October) which gives away 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.
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 Will Month, your will writing service is free in exchange for a charity donation.
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 is a charity backed campaign which 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 Stroke Association or Age UK.
Will Aid (opens in new tab) is open to everyone over eighteen and a chance to get a free will or update. It takes place every November, when participating solicitors waive their fees for a charity donation which is split between nine charities including the NSPCC, the British Red Cross and Age UK. The suggested amount is £100.
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.
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’ll should pay for one as you will need more work and time put into it.
Find a solicitor is with 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 the remainder be split in half between your spouse and any surviving 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. The campaign starts on 3 October 2022.
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!