Thinking about a time when you are no longer around may feel uncomfortable, but failing to plan ahead can risk leaving a serious financial headache and expense for loved-ones who are left behind.
New research shows that six in ten adults are taking this risk as they do not have a will. Many think a will is not necessary because they believe family and friends will decide who gets what of any assets – but this is not the case.
When someone dies without a will, rules of 'intestacy' kick in – and it falls to the State to determine how a person's worldly goods are distributed. The decisions made may not reflect their wishes.
Unmarried couples have no inheritance rights under this law while the complexity of modern families is not addressed, meaning children from previous marriages could miss out.
Such anomalies are currently under consideration in a review by the Law Commission aiming to make the will-making process friendlier and more appropriate to modern family arrangements.
But this is no reason to put off writing a will. Karen Barrett, from find-an-adviser website Unbiased, says: 'People need to understand the huge benefits of having a will and the even bigger risks of not having one.'
Barrett says many procrastinate because they believe they are too young or perhaps think they do not have enough financial assets.
Other concerns are costs – or simply not knowing how to go about organising a will.
Liz Alley, of wealth manager Brewin Dolphin, says: 'Some individuals may argue they do not need a will because they either have little money in the bank or believe death is a long way off.
'But people need to think about who they want to inherit their belongings, such as their home, car, jewellery – and even pets
'It is important to put this down in writing so family and friends can honour their wishes.'
The lack of a will can trigger bitter disputes after death and some loved ones can miss out entirely.
James Antoniou, head of wills at Co-op Legal Services, says: 'Dying without a valid will can lead to confusion and complexity for the families left behind. To improve the chances of your wishes being carried out, it is crucial to put an effective will in place.'
Find a solicitor through websites such as lawsociety.org.uk or unbiased.co.uk. Costs vary but expect to pay between £100 and £200 for a single will and £150 to £300 for a couple's joint or 'mirror' wills.
Alternatively go to a legal expert – Co-op Legal Services has an online service. Prices start from £150 for a single will or £234 for mirror wills.
Consumer organisation Which? also has a service to draft a will online and have it checked by a specialist. The cost is £119 for a single will or £189 for mirror wills. Visit wills.which.co.uk.
Will Aid is a campaign running until the end of this month. Its aim is to encourage more people to get their wills organised.
It is open to all ages and is based on a partnership between the legal profession and nine UK charities – including ActionAid, Age UK and Save the Children.
Solicitors waive their fees for writing a basic will, asking instead for a voluntary donation to Will Aid. The recommended donation is £95 per person or £150 for a couple. Visit willaid.org.uk.
Emma Peak set up her will 12 months ago and now has peace of mind, knowing she has this vital legal document in place. The 31-year-old, from Sunderland, works for charity Christian Aid and signed up to the Will Aid campaign last November.
She says: 'Writing a will is the sort of issue you can keep putting off.
But with so many bad things going on in the world right now, it is important to have something in place just in case the unexpected happens.
I do not want to risk leaving my loved-ones with a lot of financial mess to sort out.'
After registering with Will Aid, Emma received a list of local solicitors taking part in the scheme and chose one based just a few minutes' walk from her home.
Emma says: 'I wanted to get my will drawn up professionally and felt that a solicitor taking part in the Will Aid scheme would be trustworthy.
'After filling in the online form, I had a chat face-to-face with the solicitor which lasted for around an hour. I then had to go back just one more time to sign the documents.'
Emma used her will to state that certain valuable possessions should go to particular family members. She was also able to leave something for her godchildren and a number of favourite charities.
Emma gave the suggested donation of £95 to Will Aid.
She says: 'My solicitor was offering her time and skills for free. I am also closely involved with some of the charities which benefit from Will Aid – so I was happy to donate my £95.'
Read more: http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/pensions/article-5095883/Dying-without-risk-family-s-finances.html#ixzz4yuWStSKC
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook