Writing a will is a critical step in managing your assets and ensuring that your final wishes are respected. The significance of this legal document transcends mere asset distribution; it is a crucial element of life planning. This blog explores the appropriate age to consider writing a will under English law, examining various factors that make this decision both personal and legally pertinent; this applies to England & Wales only.
Legal Age Requirement For Writing a Will
Under English law, the legal age to write a will is 18. This was established in the Wills Act 1837. Once an individual reaches 18, they are legally recognised as capable of making a will. However, there are exceptions, such as for members of the armed forces on active duty or at sea, where the age can be lower.
Life Milestones as Triggers For Writing a Will
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ answer to when one should write a will, but certain life events can serve as catalysts. These include:
- Marriage or Civil Partnership: Under English law, marriage or entering a civil partnership automatically revokes a previous will, unless the will explicitly states it was made in contemplation of that marriage. Thus, it’s advisable to write a new will or review an existing one upon entering these unions.
- Parenthood: The arrival of children is a significant life event that often prompts individuals to write a will. This ensures that provisions are made for the children’s care and financial security in the event of the parents’ untimely demise. Appointing Guardians of YOUR choice is much better than the alternative!
- Property and Asset Acquisition: Acquiring substantial assets, like property, is another key reason to consider writing a will. This ensures that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.
- Business Ownership: Business owners should consider their business succession plans and how their interests in the business will be handled.
The Case for Early Will Writing
While these life events are common triggers, there’s a strong argument for writing a will at a younger age, even in the absence of significant assets or family responsibilities. The reasons include:
- Clarity and Peace of Mind: Having a will provides clarity on the distribution of your assets, however modest they may be. It can prevent potential disputes among family members and ensures your wishes are followed.
- Unforeseen Circumstances: Life is unpredictable. A will is a proactive step in preparing for unforeseen circumstances, ensuring that your affairs are in order no matter what the future holds.
- Charitable Intentions: A will allows you to make specific bequests to charities or causes that are important to you.
Regular Review and Update
Writing a will is not a one-time event. It should be reviewed and possibly updated after any major life change, such as divorce, the death of a beneficiary, or significant changes in financial circumstances. As many as 50% of Wills may be out of date or not appropriate for a person’s current situation, especially if written many years ago!
Seeking Professional Advice
Given the complexities involved in estate planning, it’s prudent to seek professional advice when writing a will. At The Will Centre, we can ensure that your will is legally valid, reflects your wishes accurately, and considers all relevant aspects of English law. There are in fact different kinds of Will to be considered, which we outline in more detail here.
While the legal age to write a will in England is 18, the decision of when to write one is influenced by personal circumstances and life events. The act of writing a will goes beyond age and assets; it’s about ensuring your wishes are respected and your loved ones are cared for. Regular reviews and updates are essential to reflect changes in your life. Ultimately, the best time to write a will is when you feel prepared to make these important decisions, guided by professional legal advice to ensure compliance with English law.
Further reading: What should I avoid when writing a will?