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Your age – now!
Anyone who is over the age of 18, and who has mental capacity, is able to write a will.
We often think of losing mental capacity as something which occurs during old age, perhaps because of Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia. However mental capacity, in relation to a will, is essentially having the ability to understand what you own, understand who you want to leave assets to, who else may feel entitled to something from your estate, and understand exactly what a will is and does.
The Alzheimer’s Society tells us that dementia doesn’t just affect older people. Over 40,000 people under 65 in the UK have dementia. We can lose mental capacity permanently or temporarily, short term or longer term, for many reasons such as physical illness, lack of consciousness, coma, injury from a traffic, work or sporting accident or injury. Mental capacity is not just an issue for the aged – who knows what curve balls life will throw at us.
So … why write a will?
Your will sets out what you want to happen after your death. It is a way of having control over that which is yours, make arrangements for your loved ones, an opportunity to let people know they were valued, and can even set out what should to happen to you and how to celebrate your life.
If that isn’t reason enough then consider this:
Do you own anything at all? Whatever the monetary or emotional value of your belongings and assets don’t you want to make sure they go to the right person? If you do not have a will the Rules of Intestacy will step in, and despite what you may want to happen or your personal circumstances, your estate will be distributed according to those rules.
Are you in a long term relationship or living together, but not married? If so, your partner is not automatically entitled to anything from your estate unless you make arrangements for them – even if you have children together.
Do you want to name someone to be your children’s Guardian if you are no longer around to care for them? You know your children, understand their relationships with others and where they would thrive the best – a Guardianship clause can avoid ambiguity and dispute, or add support and guidance where disagreement has arisen.
Do you want to avoid family disputes? Is your family complex – perhaps you have children from different relationships, step children, or step brothers and sisters? A will can enable you to be clear how and why you provide for loved ones in different ways to avoid unnecessary hurt and confusion.
What about Inheritance Tax? Inheritance tax is charged at 40% of the value of the estate above any exemptions available. Everyone has the benefit of the Nil Rate Band (currently £325,000) but if your estate is valued more than this it could be worthwhile to check that your estate is tax efficient.
Writing a will is often put to the back of our mind as we navigate our busy lives. It can involve us facing the unthinkable – about when we die, and what also should happen if loved ones die. However, often those tasks we avoid (whilst putting up with that continuing, niggling feeling we should get on with it) turn out not to be that bad. So take control and enjoy the feeling that you have it sorted!