Marriages, divorces, births, deaths, buying a house, selling a house: all circumstances that, according to the government, mean you should be making (or updating) your will, sensible advice yet around 60% of die without even making one in the first place?!
For those who ‘get it’ (ie mortality) , you might consider adding in a few instructions about what you want done with your ashes. But making sure those wishes are followed might take more than that. Here’s what you need to know:
Funeral wishes aren’t legally binding, even in a will. You can’t use a will to force your executor to stick to your preferred funeral or ash scattering arrangements.
This is for a pretty good reason. Sometimes, circumstances mean it’s just not possible for the executor of the will to follow through on certain wishes. If the stadium or park you wanted your ashes scattered in stops allowing it, or if your estate doesn’t have enough money to cover the solid gold urn you were hoping for, they will need an out.
But if you do put your funeral wishes in your will, and assuming they’re reasonable, they will usually be followed. And …
By putting your wishes on record, you can save your family from tricky decisions. For example, if one of your relatives is very pro-scattering, while another would prefer a burial, having your wishes in the will means there can be no confusion about what you really wanted.
Once the will is submitted for probate, it’s also possible for others to see it, which can encourage reluctant family members to follow through. But …
It’s important to have a back-up plan. When someone dies, there’s some pressure on the family to make funeral arrangements quite quickly. This means that they might not get around to reading the will until after certain crucial decisions (burial or cremation, for example) have already been made.
So, it’s a really good idea to firstly have a discussion with your family to make your main wishes clear, and to leave another set of instructions around to hammer out the details, if those are important to you. Then tell someone where those instructions are.
Another way to steer things in a certain direction is to take out a funeral plan, although these aren’t legally binding either. These are quite interesting I might do have a look at these, well a little look.
People should make a will. It’s simple enough to make a will with a local solicitor. They will usually charge about £100 to £600, depending on how complicated the will is. If you have property overseas, a business, lots of trusts to set up, or complicated bequests, it can lean towards the higher end of the scale. It’s a good idea to shop around and compare costs.
If you don’t have the funds for a solicitor, you can still make a will. Here are a few options:
- Free Wills Month: In March and October, anyone over 55 can ask a participating solicitor to write their will for free.
- Will Aid: A charitable organisation that works with volunteer solicitors to make wills for free. They recommend a donation of £95 for a single will, or £150 for a couple’s will.
- Make your own: As long as your wishes are simple, you don’t need a solicitor to make a valid will. To avoid misunderstandings, it’s best to use a will writing template or an online will tool to make your DIY will – these can help you make sure you’re using the proper legal language. Some of these services charge about £20 and £90, but these guys have a free online will writing tool for those in England and Wales.
- Charities: Apparently some charities will help you write your will in the hope that you will include them in it (sorry I have no examples for you)
Is it really worth making a will to say what should happen to my ashes?
Perhaps not, since your instructions won’t be legally binding. But there are a lot of other reasons to make a will: protecting an unmarried partner, setting up guardians for children and pets, or just avoiding conflict over your estate.
If you didn’t believe me about the 60% statistic, have a look at this – only about 41% of adults in the UK have a will. Although at least 11% say they’ll get around to it.