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Dispelling the myths around wills

By Fiona Haigh, Emily Bosworth

Published In: Wills and Probate

A will is something that everyone should consider putting into place, during their lifetime. It protects their assets and their loved ones, upon their death.  However, due to a multitude of common myths, many people believe they don’t need one.  We are dispelling some of the most common myths surrounding Wills.

 You only need a will if you’re old

The legal minimum age to make a will is 18 years unless you’re in the armed forces. It’s a common myth that you only need a will if you’re old. It’s never too early to make a will as we never know what’s around the corner and you could become poorly, lose capacity or be in an accident. It then becomes especially important if you get married, are cohabiting with a partner, are separated, divorced, own property, own a business or have children.

You only need a will if you’re rich or have children

Many people believe that only the wealthy should have a will in place to deal with their money when they have passed away.  However, a will doesn’t only deal with financial assets it can ensure that your personal assets are passed on according to your wishes. For example, a will can include:

  • Funeral wishes
  • Provision for personal belongings
  • Guardianship wishes where you can appoint people to take care of your children (under 18) if you were to pass away
  • You can also include provisions in your will for your pets and how you would like them to be taken care of if they were to survive you

If you have strong feelings about any of these matters, it’s vital that you put a will in place to ensure that your wishes come into effect, on the event of your death.

You only need a will if you’re dying

Another common misconception is that you only need to make a will if you’re at the end of your life, caused by an illness.  You should make a will at any point in your life to ensure that you are prepared for the worst.  Waiting until you are dying to make your will is a risk as if you are ill, you may not feel up to discussing such an important topic.  Also, certain factors such as the medication that you are taking, may affect your decision-making and. This would mean you may not have the adequate capacity to communicate your wishes and execute a will.  Overall, making a will when you’re dying is more stressful process for yourself and your loved ones, due to the urgency of the matter.  Therefore, it is advisable that you ensure that your will is put into place while you are healthy and able to do so.

Doesn’t it just pass to my parents or spouse?

There is often an assumption that assets will automatically pass to a spouse or parents on death. If you don’t have a will in place, then your estate falls to the rules of intestacy.  This means that there’s a prescribed order that dictates who receives your assets and personal items.

  • If you were married on death but die without a will then all your personal property and belongings, and the first £322,000 of the estate, and half of the remaining estate will go to the spouse.
  • The other half of the estate will go to biological children if there are any.
  • If there’s no spouse or children, then the whole estate would go to parents at this point if they were alive.
  • If there are no parents, then the prescribed order dictates who is next in line to receive the assets.  This ends with the assets going to the Crown if there is no-one in line. Given the rules of intestacy you may have a preference and if you don’t make a will the people who benefit may not be who you want

My family know what I want

Some people take the view that they do not need to make a will because their family already know what they would like to happen on their death.  Although you may have expressed your wishes to your family, this is not legally binding, and they don’t have to follow your wishes.  Also, your family may not have a choice in the matter, if you pass away without a will, your assets will pass in accordance with intestacy laws.  This means that making sure that you have a valid will in place is important to ensure that your wishes are upheld when you have passed away.  At Switalskis, we also offer our ‘Just To Let You Know’ booklet, where you can document your wishes in more detail and provide guidance for your loved ones.

You only need a will if you have a big family

The myth that you only need a will if you have a big family is incorrect.  No matter the size of your family, you should make sure that you have a will in place to make sure that they are protected and provided for, in the event of your death.  You may also wish to consider what would happen to your assets in the event of a ‘disaster’, where all your family were to, unfortunately, pass away before you.


I have nobody to give my things to

If you do not have a spouse, children, or any relatives to gift to then your estate will pass to the Crown. You may wish to consider gifting to a charity or a friend. You are entitled to leave your estate wherever or to whomever you wish.

You only need probate if you have a will

This is a common assumption that people make it’s incorrect! The presence of a will actually has no bearing on whether probate is needed. You’ll need to make a detailed list of all the assets the deceased owned, if the value of the estate is low then probate may not be needed.  A grant of probate is a legal document that the court grant to say a chosen executor is legally allowed to deal with a deceased persons estate. If there is no will, then a grant of letters of administration is used. A grant is sometimes needed if assets are above a certain amount in the bank, some banks may release the funds with proof of a death certificate, identification, and a will if there is one. If the deceased owned a property, then a grant of probate is needed as the Land Registry won’t let just anyone deal with it. If you have any concerns or are confused it is best to seek advice as to whether probate is needed.

In conclusion, it’s important to consider making a will to ensure your assets are distributed in accordance with your wishes, when you have passed away, no matter your circumstances. To discuss your wishes or the wishes of a loved one contact our wills and probate team on 0800 1380 458 or fill out the form below.

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photo of Fiona Haigh

Fiona has worked in the legal sector for over two years.  She spent time as a Wills and Probate Advisor and is now training to become a Solicitor.

Trainee Solicitor
photo of Emily Bosworth

Emily is a Wills and Probate Advisor.  She’s based in our Wakefield office.

Wills Advisor

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