The future is bright: you’re in your thirties; your career is going well; and you’ve bought your first house. You’re in good health. Marriage and children aren’t on your mind right now – you’re just enjoying living life to the fullest. So why on earth would you need a will?
The word ‘will’ instantly brings to mind an older generation, estate planning, and thoughts of mortality (which few of us want to consider). But, in actual fact, it’s best to think of a will like an insurance policy: safeguarding the good choices you’ve made in life so far and ensuring that, should anything terrible occur, your wishes will be carried out. In addition, the money you spend on it now could save your loved ones a fortune if something unexpected were to happen to you.
Wills certainly are not the province of the older generation. In fact, as soon as you own a house or another major asset (above a current bank account), it’s smart to make a will.
What are the benefits of having a will in my thirties?
If a person has never made a will (or if they have, but it’s not deemed to be legally valid), on their death the rules of intestacy will apply to their estate. Under these rules, only spouses, civil partners and some close relatives can inherit.
What could intestacy mean for you and those closest to you? First and foremost, if you were to die unexpectedly – and without having made a will – the sadness and grief your loved ones would experience would be exacerbated, as they’d have the extra challenge of coping with the fact that your wishes might not be carried out. Making a will would protect them from unnecessary suffering or confusion. And, moreover, it’s more likely that the rules of intestacy will not reflect your wishes if you’re a single person in your thirties who does not have any children: in that case, your assets will pass back to your parents. Most young people are unlikely to want their parents to inherit – there may be other loved ones who you’d feel would benefit from your assets more (such as your siblings).
In addition, there’s also a tax issue. It’s reasonable to assume that your parents may have helped you financially: they may have passed assets to you to avoid inheritance tax charges later on, for example. If that’s the case and you die intestate, those same assets will be passed back to your parents – but they’ll have to pay tax on them. Making a will is, apart from anything else, often a very tax efficient way of protecting your assets.
How can having a will help if I own a business?
If you’re in your thirties and own a business (or shares in one), it’s highly advisable that you make a will as soon as possible – and there are several measures that can be taken to ensure the best outcome (and protect your interest) in the event of your death. Discretionary trusts are one such option (particularly if you have a spouse).
If you don’t make a will, or you make a will and haven’t included a trust, you may also miss out on qualifying for Business Property Relief – which could save a huge amount.
It’s worth noting that trusts can be really useful even if you have reservations about the person you’d like to take over the business. For example, let’s imagine it’s a sibling who is much younger than you: if you put the business into a trust (thus preserving BPR), your executors can decide who takes over until your nominated person is ready or qualified to run the company.
Do I need a will if I’m not married?
Yes – in order to avoid the pitfalls of intestacy (which means your parents would automatically inherit if you’re unmarried and don’t have children). If you’re unmarried but do have children, they will inherit, but you should draw up a will to nominate guardians for them in the event of your death (without this, should you and your partner pass away before your child reached the age of 18, any decision about who should care for your child would be turned over to the family courts).
Do also bear in mind that marriage invalidates any will – so if you draw up a will whilst you’re single, you will need to update this once you’re married. This makes sense as you need protection in both circumstances, but those circumstances will have changed.
I don’t have a financial adviser. Can you help me with tax planning?
It all depends on your situation. Solicitors who specialise in wills and estate planning (such as our own Harriet Turnbull) can advise on certain tax reliefs – so forming a relationship with a solicitor is a good place to start. For help with wider financial planning, we also have strong contacts with recommended financial advisers and accountants. Your thirties are a great time to get your affairs in order more generally: we’d advise that you start without delay.
Wills and estate planning can be a sensitive process. With that in mind, there are real benefits to making headway now. Apart from anything else, forming a relationship with a solicitor at this stage of life is a smart move: your affairs are likely to get more complex as you get older, and knowing that you have a trusted contact – someone who has been on the journey with you, and knows your family and situation well – can be invaluable.
Whatever your age or situation, if you’re considering making or updating your will, we’re here to help. Our expert lawyers provide sensitive advice that takes into account all your personal circumstances. Please contact us today to discuss your needs further.
Disclaimer: this material is a general overview only, and is not intended to provide legal advice.