Money: Stay in control in the hereafter

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The Independent Online
Two out of three of us don't have a will, either through apathy or unwillingness. But if you die without making one, you won't have any choice about who inherits your home and goods.

The Law Society tries to kick-start us into action every year with its Solicitors' Make a Will Week. This year's campaign starts tomorrow and legal firms around the country will be offering discounts - check your local paper for details of solicitors participating in the scheme.

A straightforward will drawn up by a solicitor normally costs less than pounds 50 (about pounds 75 for couples). You will pay more than this if you have complicated financial affairs.

This year the Law Society is encouraging people who take part in Make a Will Week to consider leaving some money to charity. It has joined forces with the Charity Wills Group, a consortium of 100 charities.

Charities receive between 15 and 70 per cent of their income from bequests, and the promise of such donations enables them to plan into the future. Anthony Ritchie, from Scope, which raises money for people with cerebral palsy, says this is vital: "Scope receives about pounds 5m per year in bequests, which accounts for about a third of our income. We rely on people's farsightedness so that our work can carry on."

If you do not make a will, the law will decide who gets what when you die. The intestacy rules in England and Wales state that if you are married with children, half your wealth (to the value of pounds 125,000) goes to your spouse, along with your personal possessions. The remainder is divided between your spouse and children. Without a will you cannot dictate who will be your children's guardian.

If you have no children your spouse receives up to pounds 200,000 along with your possessions. The remainder is split between your spouse and parents, or siblings if your parents are dead.

It's especially important to make a will if you are not married. Your partner is not automatically entitled to inherit anything if you don't make a will setting out your wishes.

n Contact: the Law Society, 0171-242 1222.