Your New Year’s Resolution?
If you haven't made your will yet, you risk leaving a mess behind for the people you love.
27 million adults in the UK haven’t yet got around to fulfilling one of their most important responsibilities, to make their will. Getting your will made isn’t exactly a bundle of laughs, but if you don't bother, and end up dying “intestate”, you risk saddling the people you care about most with unnecessary expense and stress at a time when they’re already coping with bereavement. And let’s not sit on the fence here: that’s just rude!
What happens if you die without a will?
“It can leave surviving loved ones in a real mess,” says Toby Scott from the Dying Matters coalition. “It can cause problems that take a long time to sort out, and can trigger arguments that can split families apart.”
If you die intestate, you don't get to decide what happens to the legacy you leave behind; the law decides. The “intestacy rules” divide your legacy between members of your family, depending on whether you’re married, and in according to a strict order of priority. These rules may bear little resemblance to what you would have wanted.
If you’re an unmarried couple living together, the consequences could be disastrous. As Hayley North, chartered financial planner at Rose & North, says:
“If you are not married your partner has no entitlement to anything – even if you have children together.”
If you have step-children or step-grandchildren you care about, they will be left out in the cold if you haven’t made a will, because they’re not included in the intestacy rules.
So, if yours is a modern family, either a blended family or stepfamily, or a couple living together, not bothering to make a will is almost guaranteed to add chaos to bereavement.
Without a Will, you have no control over your Inheritance Tax position, which means that more of your estate could end up in the hands of HMRC than would otherwise be necessary.
The lack of a Will also means you have no control over who will be responsible for distributing your assets after you have passed away. A will enables you to choose someone you trust to take on the responsibility of being your executor, but dying intestate robs you of that choice.
And if you are a parent of young children, not bothering to make a will leaves important decisions about their welfare in the hands of social workers rather than the people you would want to take care of them.
“If you have young children, the other critical thing is who will be their legal guardians,” says Hayley North. “However, it is vital to have the conversation with friends and family long before this is required.”
So, why have so many people not got around to fulfilling this vital responsibility? There are a couple of major obstacles:
I don’t have much to leave
The consequences of not making a will can be grim even if your legacy is modest. It’s not so much a matter of how much you leave behind, as who you’re leaving behind and how much you care about their welfare.
“There’s a common misconception that only the supremely wealthy need a will, but everyone should have one – even if you’ve not got much to give,” says Hannah Maundrell from website Money.co.uk.
I don't want to think about death
In a recent survey by Co-op Legal services, 15% of people who hadn’t made a will said they’d put it off because they felt uncomfortable thinking and talking about death. But it’s important to overcome that discomfort:
“Talking about dying won’t make it happen,” says Toby Scott “It can feel a bit morbid at first, but knowing you’ve got your plans and affairs in order can be a great relief. You can then get on with living the life you have, safe in the knowledge that everything is in place for loved ones.”
I don't have time
Certainly, it’s off-putting to think about making an appointment, taking time off work, travelling to a different part of town, finding a place to park, and sitting through a nerve-wracking appointment in a law office.
That’s why we work hard to eliminate the hassle-factor. We’ll come to see you at home, at a time to suit you, outside working hours if you prefer. This gives you time and privacy to relax and think about the issues that matter to you in a pressure-free environment.
I’m too young
If you’re a grown-up with assets and loved ones, the short answer to this is: no you’re not!
The recent untimely deaths of George Michael and Caroline Aherne show we can never know what’s around the corner. And the contrast between these two young lives tragically cut short illustrate the perils of thinking you’re too young to make an estate plan. Caroline Aherne’s intestacy left a great deal of stress and heartache behind for her bereaved mother, while George Michael put thought into his estate plan and ensured a legacy for the people and causes dearest to him.
Steven Cameron, pensions director at Aegon, says:
“None of us knows what the future holds, so the earlier people start inheritance planning, the better protected their loved ones will be.”
I might as well write it myself
Think very carefully before you opt for making a DIY will. Co-op Legal Services have found that about a third of the DIY wills it deals with in its probate service are defective. This can be for a whole host of reasons, for example because of ambiguity in wording, or because of mistakes in witnessing the will.
“This can result in an estate not being distributed as the person intended,” says James Antoniou from Co-op Legal Services. “It can also have a significant impact on the length of time it takes to administer an estate.”
It might be expensive
Not necessarily. Take a look at our online Estate Planning Toolkit to see the options available, with clear information as to the cost. A Traditional Will can be carefully written to meet your specific needs for as little as £275.
So, why not consider adding an item to your list of New Year’s Resolutions – making this the year you get around to making your will. Getting started is easy; just give us a call on 0151 601 5399 or fill in the contact form below.
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