Discussing your will with loved ones


Talking about your will and wishes for after you pass away can be incredibly difficult. However, it’s a step that can also make financial and practical sense, but many are putting off.

Before we take a look at the benefits of discussing your will with loved ones, we want to highlight how important making a will to begin with is. Writing a will is the only way to ensure your assets, from property and investments through to sentimental items are distributed according to your wishes. Without a will in place, your entire estate would be distributed according to Intestacy Rules, which may vary significantly with what you want. Despite this, more than half of adults haven’t prepared this vital piece of paperwork.

Millions of adults don’t discuss the contents of their will

Research from Royal London found that almost 6.5 million UK adults refuse to discuss what’s written in their will with loved ones. For many, this reluctance comes from the difficult subject matter; nobody wants to think about themselves or those they care about dying.

  • 26% of people with a will don’t talk about it because they don’t want to think about dying
  • 27% also stated they didn’t want to upset loved ones by bringing the topic up

It’s understandable if you’re hesitant to talk about your will. You may struggle with your own emotions relating to the subject or have no idea how to bring it up to your loved ones in the ‘right’ way.

Mona Patel, Royal London’s consumer spokesperson, said: “Talking about dying can be seen as a ‘taboo’ and it is not always easy to bring it up. Discussing your will with beneficiaries means they are better prepared when the time comes. It is also hugely important for family members to be aware of vital decisions in your will, such as who will look after children.”

If it’s a conversation you think you should have but you have some nerves about it, these tips may help:

  • Prepare for the conversation and have your documents to hand. Having all the facts and being clear about what your wishes are can make it easier for everyone to comprehend the topic and means you’re more likely to feel in control of the conversation.
  • Pick the right time. Talking about death is undoubtedly difficult, and picking the right time is important. Choose a point when people aren’t in a rush or focussed on something else.
  • Try to keep emotions in check. This is often easier said than done, but, as much as possible, try to keep your emotions out of the conversation, to begin with. Concentrating on the practicalities can help here.
  • Remember, you don’t need to do it all in a single conversation. If emotions are running high, you can come back to the topic at another point. Sometimes having space and time to process what’s been said can help you and your loved ones.

The benefits of discussing your will

While the emotional side of talking about a will means thousands of people are putting it off, it’s also often viewed as a private document. In fact, 45% of UK parents with adult children believe the contents of their will is ‘no one’s business’ but their own and their partner’s.

It’s a deeply personal decision, however, there are some reasons you may want to consider talking about your will even if you have reservations initially.

Your passing could have both short and long-term financial implications for your loved ones. Talking about it beforehand is an opportunity to clearly explain what they can expect from your estate, allowing them to create plans based on accurate information. It also has several other advantages:

  • Discussing funeral arrangements and other non-legally binding aspects of your will. How your estate is distributed is legally binding with a will, however, this isn’t the case for everything you may choose to set out in the documents. For example, you may want certain things to happen during the funeral service, talking about your will is an opportunity for you to explain why these are your wishes.
  • Reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax (IHT) due on your estate. If your estate is likely to be liable for IHT, there are many steps you can take to reduce the amount paid. Chatting through the different options with your loved ones, as well as a financial adviser or solicitor, can ensure more of your assets goes to loved ones, rather than the tax man.
  • Plan for potential challenges. Ideally, your will won’t be contested, but it’s important to consider how likely this may be. Chatting to family that will or won’t be inheriting from your estate can help you identify where potential difficulties may arise from, allowing you to take steps to minimise the chances of this occurring.

Remember, talking about your will is a personal choice, there’s no right or wrong approach. You should also take care to review your will after life events and every five years as your wishes may change.

When deciding about how you’ll distribute your estate it’s important to think about the assets you have and potential IHT liability. This is an area that we can help with, if you’d like support in understanding what you can leave loved ones and how to mitigate IHT, please get in touch with us.

Please note: The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate will writing.