Top five tips when writing a will

14 April 2021
Without a will your client's property might not go to the person they want it to when they die

And, did you know that cohabitees differ from spouses when it comes to assets after their partner's death?

Listen to Gregor Sked talk to Clare Moffat from our Intermediary Development and Technical team discuss some common assumptions and offer some top tips when writing a will. 

In March each year, Free Wills Month brings together a group of well-respected charities to offer members of the public aged 55 and over the opportunity to have their simple wills written or updated free of charge by using participating solicitors in selected locations around England and Wales. You should also watch out for Will Relief Scotland in September and Will Aid month in November. 

Hi everyone, thanks for joining us for another Royal London podcast, I’m Gregor Sked and in this episode, we’re going to be sharing five top tips to help you and your clients when it comes to writing a will.

Now, joining me today is Clare Moffat, head of Royal London’s Intermediary Development and Technical Team.

Hi Clare, great to have you with us today.

Hi Gregor

So for many people listening today it might be no surprise to hear that the number of people in the UK with a will is really low and we can evidence this by looking at the results from our recent Opinium survey which found that three in five adults in the UK don’t have a will4.

So Clare, this is an area that I know you’re really passionate about so what are your top tips for writing a will and how could having one actually avoid leaving peoples assets under their estate at risk of ending up in the hands of the wrong person?

Yep, thanks Gregor. So top tip number 1 – Write a will

And Free Wills Month can be a great time to do this as selected solicitors offer free will-writing services for over 55s in certain parts of the UK. In exchange you can leave something in your will to charity. But even if your clients are under 55 then they need to be thinking about writing a will. When you're younger it might seem like you don't have much in the ways of assets. But if you have children then you should state who should look after them in your will or an accompanying letter of wishes. Also, if your house would be paid off with a life policy then it is a valuable asset.

And Clare, we know as a nation we don’t like to think or talk about death, but actually having conversations with loved ones can be a really powerful thing to do, isn’t that right?

Definitely. Nobody likes to talk about death but having a conversation with your loved ones is an important step to improving your financial security. Make sure your next of kin know where to find your will and other important financial documents. Now, we have a customer facing bereavement hub which you can point your clients towards, and it has lots of information and help about this.

Next tip - Remember that cohabitees are different from spouses

So, if assets under the estate go to a cohabitee rather than a spouse then inheritance tax could be payable as there is no spousal exemption. That only applies if a couple are married or in a civil partnership. But it’s even more important to keep an up-to-date will if you're a cohabitee as there aren’t the same automatic intestacy rights. Royal London research found four in five people (81%) who are cohabiting do not have a will1. If you own a home together, make sure you understand the implications of the way in which you own the home together. If you don't and one person owns the home, do they know that on death without a will, that home would go to blood relatives before the person they might have cohabited with for many years?


Something I came across recently was Sunlife’s Cost of Dying report and they found that 65% of people have already made financial provisions for paying for their funeral2… so would you say it’s important to include the funeral arrangements within a will too.

Yes Gregor. 

Losing a loved one is one of the most stressful times in your life and arranging a funeral while grieving adds to that distress. ISo including your funeral arrangements in a letter of wishes alongside your will can really help your loved ones. In addition, with the average cost of a funeral in the UK at £3,8003, including financial arrangements, such as a funeral plan, can help ensure no one is left with a bill they can’t afford after you’ve gone.

And my final tip is that if you have a will, make sure that it's updated if necessary.

If you already have a will, that’s great news. But if you have recently experienced a major life event, such as buying a home or having children, it’s important to update your will to reflect this. If you have recently separated from a spouse, but not yet divorced, your ex-spouse or ex-separated-spouse could still be entitled to benefit from your estate. If you have recently divorced, you should revisit your will especially when the only beneficiary was your former spouse. Now, it’s also important to check your will if you have recently inherited assets - because what would you want to happen to them? But what isn’t in the estate? Now, not all assets are covered by the estate such as life policies, pensions and death in service benefits. So, have expression of wish forms been filled in or updated recently? There can be more assets outside the estate than inside the estate and it's important to make sure these accurately reflect what your clients want to happen and this is especially important on separation or divorce.

Thanks Clare, not only five really thought-provoking tips there but some really powerful reasons why people should be considering writing a will.

Now that’s all we’ve got time for in this episode. All that’s left for me to do is say a massive thank you to everyone for listening to us today and remember to stay tuned for another Royal London podcast from the Pension and Protection Development and Technical Team coming your way very soon.

Sources:

1 - Royal London wills research  - Royal London commissioned a survey by Opinium between 18-22 October 2019 with a sample of 2,006 nationally representative UK adults.
2 - Sunlife, Cost of Dying Report - https://www.sunlife.co.uk/siteassets/documents/cost-of-dying/cost-of-dying-report-2021.pdf/,
3 - Royal London Funeral Report 2020 - https://www.royallondon.com/siteassets/site-docs/media-centre/royal-london-national-funeral-cost-index-2020-funeral-report-web.pdf.
4 - Royal London wills research  - Royal London commissioned a survey by Opinium between 18-22 October 2019 with a sample of 2,006 nationally representative UK adults.

sources: 

1 - Royal London wills research  - Royal London commissioned a survey by Opinium between 18-22 October 2019 with a sample of 2,006 nationally representative UK adults.

2 - Sunlife, Cost of Dying Report - https://www.sunlife.co.uk/siteassets/documents/cost-of-dying/cost-of-dying-report-2021.pdf/,
3 - Royal London Funeral Report 2020 - https://www.royallondon.com/siteassets/site-docs/media-centre/royal-london-national-funeral-cost-index-2020-funeral-report-web.pdf.
4 - Royal London wills research  - Royal London commissioned a survey by Opinium between 18-22 October 2019 with a sample of 2,006 nationally representative UK adults.

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The Royal London Mutual Insurance Society Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. The firm is on the Financial Services Register, registration number 117672. It provides life assurance and pensions. Registered in England and Wales number 99064. Registered office: 55 Gracechurch Street, London, EC3V 0RL.