Why there’s always a right time to make a will
Recently, someone I spoke to said, “Is it too late to keep my New Year resolution to make a will?” I responded “No, not at all.” Any time is the right time to make a will!
According to research by Canada Life in 2020, 59% of adults in the UK don’t have a will, with many believing they have nothing to leave or that the person they’re closest to will naturally inherit. Sadly, this isn’t always the case. At the very start of the pandemic, I was called upon to help a lady living in a hospice make her will. Due to the lockdown, I wasn’t allowed to visit her to take instructions and sadly she died intestate - this is the legal term for someone who dies without a will.
Her family weren’t initially concerned as they thought they would naturally inherit her estate, but then they discovered that since having her children, she had married. She was estranged from her husband very shortly after the wedding but had never divorced him. And so began the journey to locate the missing husband so he could inherit his estranged wife’s estate under the intestacy laws of England and Wales. Admittedly, this is an unusual case, but intestacies are still common in this country. The intestacy rules govern who would inherit if there were no will, namely:
If you have a spouse or civil partner and children, your spouse or civil partner will inherit all your personal possessions and at least the first £250,000 of your estate, plus half the rest. Your children will then be entitled to the other half of the balance.
If you have a spouse or civil partner but don’t have children, your spouse or civil partner will inherit your whole estate, including your personal possessions.
If you and your partner are not married or in a civil partnership and you haven’t made a will, they have no automatic right to inherit from your estate. This applies even if you have lived together for a long time or have children together.
If you have children and your spouse or partner is deceased, your children will inherit everything, divided equally between them, then grandchildren.
If you don’t have a partner or children, parents, brothers, sisters, and nieces and nephews may inherit your estate. But not cousins, godchildren or people who bring you soup when you get sick i.e., the people you may prefer to benefit from your estate.
By having a will, you get to choose who oversees the arrangement of your affairs on your death. These people are called executors. They organise your funeral, sort out your house and personal belongings, and carry out the wishes stated in your will. Some people do not believe they have anything of value to sort out, but it’s surprising that sometimes with pensions, inheritances, death in service benefits or life policies that can arise in an estate. Often, people are wealthier in death than when living.
In summary, it’s always best to have a professionally drafted will, written by a specialised lawyer to help minimise distress for loved ones and ensure your wishes are carried out. listen to your wishes and help you make sense of everything.