Here’s your to-do list for the day. Go to work, do the school run, cook the dinner, go to the gym.. make a will.
Your personal to-do list may look a little different – but the last item should be the same for everyone who doesn’t already have a will. In fact, why is it at the end of the list, when it really should be first?
We all have so much to shoehorn into our daily lives that it can feel impossible to add anything that isn’t absolutely essential into our day. We have to work, eat, look after our families… but legal paperwork is time consuming and boring and who has the time?
It is perfectly natural to feel like this. Nobody wants to think about dying when they are too busy living. But it is important to face facts. Ultimately we will all die, and none of us know when this will happen.
Being prepared and making a will means that when it does happens, your possessions and property will be divided as you would wish. Your family will be looked after and you can specify if you want to be buried or cremated.
Dying without a will – intestate – can cause all manner of problems. In fact, people are often prompted to make their own will if their parents die intestate and they see the multitude of legal issues this can cause.
People often mistakenly think that if they die intestate things will pretty much happen in the same way as if they have a will. But lives are complicated. If you’re not married, for example, your partner does not automatically inherit – you have to specify this in a will. You may have children, step children, property in your sole name, joint property, a business or commercial interests, shares and savings. You’ve worked hard to build up your personal effects and it can be very sad when a bereaved family finds they won’t inherit your property and possessions.
Where to begin…
Firstly, let’s reassure you that it doesn’t need to be a costly and time-consuming process. Yes you’ll need to do a bit of groundwork, but remember once it’s done it’s done – unlike the ironing, it won’t keep cropping back up on your to-do list. But it’s an important legal document and as such it’s important that you take expert legal advice.
While you can make a will yourself, we never advise this – it can leave you open to all kinds of risk and your will could end up being invalid. A solicitor can take you through the entire process and look at all aspects of your life. The saying ‘life goes on’ may be a cliché, but it’s true. Your children will grow up and you need to provide for their changing needs, your spouse may remarry which could affect yours or their children’s inheritances. And on top of this they can talk to you about inheritance tax and everything you need to consider in this area.
Spend a little time thinking about what you want to include:
- What assets and property do you have?
- Who will care for children or disabled relatives (or other dependents). You will also need to think about other permutations, such as beneficiaries named in your will dying before you.
- Are there any other things that you own or look after to take into account?
Appoint someone you trust
You will also need to appoint executors, who will be responsible for making sure the provisions in your will are acted upon. It’s a big task, so make sure you check with them first before you name them.
Keeping your will in a safe place
Remember, while making a will is hugely important, so is storing it properly. Hopefully after you’ve made your will you will enjoy many many more years of life. But as with all documents they can get lost or forgotten about, which will undo all your hard work in making it in the first place. Your solicitor will be able to advise you about how to register your will – which means your executors and family can access it – and they usually offer to register it for you as part of their services.
It is always tempting to put things off until tomorrow. But life is unpredictable and we do have to put in a certain amount of planning. You insure your house and your car – look upon making a will as insuring your family’s future after you’re gone. And it’s a lot easier than you may think.
Look at your to-do list for the day again. If you haven’t already made a will… make sure it’s top of your list.
Lester Aldridge is a nationally recognised law firm with offices in London, Bournemouth and Southampton.
The Private Client team are leaders in their field. Kurt, Paula, Harriet and Melanie are specialist private client expertswith a wealth of experience in all areas of private client work from wills to tax, trusts and probate. If you would like more information, call 01202 786294