Many of us aren't very good at talking about death, so it's not surprising that over 70% of us risk leaving our nearest and dearest with a lot of hassle and confusion by not making a Will. Most of us, at some time in our lives considers putting their affairs in order, but we never quite manage it and no further action is taken. There are of course the normal excuses of 'we're too busy', or 'I don't plan on dying just yet!'
But many people put off making a Will simply because they are aware of the severe consequences to their family if anything was to happen to them. They just assumed that everything would be OK.
However, if you care about your family, and care about who inherits your estate, and you do want everything to be 'OK', then you need an up to date professionally drafted Will - NOW!
Laws of Intestacy
If you die without a Will, then the Government will decide who will inherit your estate in accordance with the Laws of Intestacy. These laws state that your spouse may end up sharing your estate with your children or parents, or if you are an unmarried couple, then your partner may not get anything.
Without knowing who you want as guardians, the authorities will decide who is best placed to look after your young children, which may be hugely upsetting and disruptive. It can also mean that your partner (if you are not married) does not automatically become guardian of young children, even though they may be the father.
Horror of horrors! Die without a Will and your ex-spouse, may be entitled to claim part, or all of your estate in certain circumstances! Even if your ex-spouse cannot make a claim, your children's trust fund may fall under their control!
The Point of a Will
Making a Will is about ensuring that what you have, goes where you want to, and looking after the people you care most about. A Will only gives away what has not been taken from you, or what you have not spent.
The actual Will process need not turn out to be as upsetting and difficult as you might think. In fact, having made a Will gives you a feeling that you have done the right thing, and gain provide a certain satisfaction that only comes from the knowledge that you have tied up all those loose ends.
But making sure that you have a Will is not enough; it has to be the right type of Will - one that is professionally drafted to take into account your wishes, and your personal and financial circumstances, and will make things as easy as possible for your executors.
With the right Will you can:
- Specify whom you wish to inherit your estate, in what order and in what proportions.
- Make specific gifts to family, friends or even to your favourite charities.
- Appoint suitable guardians for young children.
- Arrange maintenance trusts for children, to protect their inheritance until an age specified by you.
- Ensure the inheritance of your children or other beneficiaries should the survivor re-marry.
- Help reduce Inheritance Tax, and can even help to reduce the effects of nursing care fees.
Amending an Existing Will
If you already have a Will, it is recommended that you review it every few years. Sometimes your wishes may not have changed, but the value of your assets and the law may have. As such it is very important to ensure that your Will does exactly what you want it to do and that it protects your assets and investments. It may also be that you wish to change your choice of executors, or that your existing Will does not provide a "fall back" situation should beneficiaries predecease you.