Sorting out your affairs

By sorting out your financial affairs, you can make sure your wishes are followed in the future. It may also mean there is one less thing for you and your family or friends to worry about.This could include:

  • writing a will
  • putting funeral plans in place
  • sorting out what will happen to your possessions (your estate).

Writing a will makes sure that what you leave when you die goes to the people you want it to. Some charities offer a free will-writing service, which you may find useful. But it is a good idea to speak to an independent solicitor too. If you die without a will, it can take longer and be more complicated to deal with your estate. 

If your family and friends don’t know what type of funeral you would like, arranging a funeral may be stressful for them. By telling them what you want, your funeral is more likely to reflect your wishes.

Our financial team on 0808 808 00 00 can give you free guidance on all of these issues.

Writing a will

A will is a legal document that gives instructions about who you want to inherit your money and possessions. Writing a will makes sure that what you leave when you die goes to the people you want it to.

You have to be at least 18 to make a will in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, you have to be at least 12.

You may find our leaflet called Your step-by-step guide to making a will helpful. You can also find information about making a will on the Marie Curie website.

Charity will-writing services

Some charities offer a free will-writing service. They hope you will use your will to leave them a gift, but you don’t have to. This gift is called a legacy. If you use a will-writing service, it’s always a good idea to speak to an independent solicitor.

There are different ways of finding charity will-writing services:

  • Contact a charity to find out if it offers a free will-making service.
  • Contact a free or low-cost charity will-writing service such as willaid.org.uk and willreliefscotland.co.uk
  • For a list of charities that offer a free annual will-making service to people aged 55 and over, visit freewillsmonth.org.uk

Macmillan has a discounted will-writing service. We have chosen a range of will-writing organisations you can trust and that can offer you a reduced price. You don’t have to leave a gift to us to get a discount.

There are several other ways we can support you to make or update your will, including helping you leave us a gift if you want to. We have legacy advisers in your area who can call or visit you for a confidential chat. For more information call us on 0800 107 4448 or email leavealegacy@macmillan.org.uk.


If you own property jointly

You may own property jointly with one or more people. What happens to it after you die depends on how it is owned.

Joint tenants

  • This is where more than one person owns a property and they all have an equal share.
  • It is called joint tenants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • In Scotland, this is called joint owners.
  • Your share will go to the other owners when you die.
  • Joint bank and savings accounts are always owned in this way. Transferring money to a joint account is a simple way to make sure your partner can easily access it if you die.

Tenants in common

  • This is when each owner has their own share of the possession. The shares do not have to be equal.
  • You might own property this way if you bought it with a friend or partner, but you both put different amounts in.
  • It is called tenants in common in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • In Scotland, this is called owners in common.
  • Your share will not automatically go to the other owners when you die. It will be passed on in the way you’ve said in your will.
  • If you don’t have a will, it will be passed on according to the law.


Funeral plans

Funerals allow families and others to pay their respects to the person who has died. Arranging a funeral can be stressful for family or close friends if they don’t know what type of funeral you would like. If you tell your family and friends what you want, your funeral is much more likely to reflect your wishes. It may also be one less thing for your family or friends to worry about.

  • A funeral plan lets you arrange and pay for your own or someone else’s funeral in advance.
  • You pay either a lump sum or instalments to the plan provider or a funeral director.
  • There are rules to protect your money until it’s needed.

Before you buy a funeral plan, you should check what the total cost will be. Also, check what will be included in the plan to make sure you’re happy with it.

You can also call our support line for help with funeral plans on 0808 808 00 00.


Dying without a will

Dying without a will is called dying intestate. If you die without a will, it can take longer to deal with the estate. It can also be more complicated. There are strict rules about who should deal with the affairs of the person who has died, and who should inherit their estate. These are called the rules of intestacy. 

If you die without making a will, the law decides who will inherit your estate. This means if you do not write a will, your estate might not go to the people you would have chosen. For example, unmarried partners may not receive anything.

If you do not leave a will, your next of kin must apply for letters of administration if they want to sort out your estate. This is an official document and the person it is granted to is known as the administrator. There can be more than one administrator. Once letters of administration is granted, the administrator has the legal right to sort out your estate.

To find out exactly what the law says about inheritance without a will where you live, use the online tool at gov.uk.


What does sorting out your estate involve?

If you make a will, your executors have the job of sorting out your estate. If there’s no will, usually your next of kin do this. This could be your partner or grown-up children, for example.

Sorting out an estate involves:

  • getting probate, or confirmation in Scotland
  • getting letters of administration, if there is no will
  • tracing everything you owned and all your debts
  • reporting anything you owe or any debts to HMRC and paying any tax that’s due
  • paying any unpaid bills and other debts
  • finding beneficiaries – these are the people who should inherit anything from you
  • possibly selling a property and other possessions.

Your executors can either do these things themselves or hire a solicitor to help.

Getting probate or confirmation

Your estate can’t be given to your beneficiaries until a certificate has been granted.

  • This certificate shows the amount you owned and owed when you died.
  • This is known as probate in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • In Scotland, it is called confirmation.
  • Your executors’ names will be on the certificate. The certificate allows them to sell or transfer your estate, so that it can be distributed according to your will. If you don’t have a will, your estate will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy.

If the estate is straightforward, getting probate or confirmation may only take a few weeks. But in more complicated cases it can take many months, or even years.

Some money and possessions can go straight to your beneficiaries without waiting for probate or confirmation. These include:

  • money or things you held jointly as joint tenants, for example, money in a joint savings account
  • the payout from life insurance held in trust
  • a lump sum or income from a pension scheme where you have chosen who should receive it.

For help on sorting out an estate and paying tax, call the Probate and Inheritance Tax Helpline on 0300 123 1072 or visit:

It may help to write down any decisions you might need to make about passing things on, and who might be involved in helping you.

Back to Planning and managing your finances

Income

Reviewing your savings, investments and income will help you plan your budget.

Budgeting

Having a weekly or monthly budget can help you manage your day-to-day finances.

Spending

If you are struggling to cover your essential costs, call us on 0808 808 00 00. You may be eligible for financial help.

Managing payments

It is important to keep track of your bills and bank accounts. There are ways to make managing them easier.

Inheritance tax

Inheritance tax is paid if your estate is worth more than £325,000 after your death. This includes property, money and possessions.

Borrowing

Make sure you’ve considered other options before borrowing money. Choose the cheapest type of borrowing and know how you’ll make repayments.