Nine good reasons why you should make a Will right now!
By Daniel Russell
Often, I come across statistics that genuinely surprise me.
For instance, the amount of time the average person spends queuing in their lifetime? Five years. Or, if you live to 90, you’ve definitely got eyelash mites (which are like very short worms, except with legs and sharp teeth). You might have them now, if you’re over 20.
A particular favourite is not the fact 43% of pilots admitted to falling asleep during a commercial flight, but that 33% of them awoke to find their co-pilot had as well.
But the statistic that still genuinely mystifies me is that 53% of all adults in the UK have not made a Will. It’s hard to think of any reason not to plan for what happens to your material possessions when you die, so instead here are 9 reasons why you should organise an appointment with a solicitor to make one right now:
1. You have control over who will look after your children if they’re minors
Without a Will, a court will make that decision, either choosing between surviving family members or a state-appointed guardian. So, deciding who will have responsibility for your children means they will live with the person or people you think best-equipped to give them the upbringing you want for them. Perhaps as importantly, it also means you can control who doesn’t look after them.
2. Your estate will be distributed according to your wishes
Having a Will gives you certainty over who gets what and when. It’s a legally-binding document that ensures your final wishes for your estate are observed. By having a Will you’ll head off any potential arguments among family members and, importantly, you’ll be able to make sure you’ve provided for anyone who may otherwise receive nothing should you die intestate. Quite apart from determining the significant elements of your estate, it’s also your chance to specify individual gifts that have sentimental meaning.
3. Any delays are minimised
Where a person dies intestate, there’s a risk that the process of disposing of your estate will be longer than if there was a Will in place.
From a practical point of view, that’s not ideal – but it also means the people you leave behind may have the emotional upset of having to deal with the impact of your death for longer than is necessary.
4. Your estate may be more tax efficient
Tax law relating to an estate can be complex and, in some cases and depending on the extent of the estate itself, punitive. Making a Will means you can make bequests and gifts – for example, those to charity and individuals, that may have tax advantages without straying beyond the bounds of HMRC rules.
5. You can disinherit people you do not wish to benefit from your death
Clearly, ex-spouses from whom separation was acrimonious feature large in this category. But just as you can use your Will to decide who does inherit from your estate, you can also use it as an opportunity to specify those who should not profit but who might otherwise have some claim.
6. You can protect your legacy
I’m not just talking about your financial or material legacy, here. Your Will is an opportunity to ensure your name and memory live on through philanthropy that reflects your interests and passions. Gifts like these may be tax-exempt, meaning the value of what you leave behind is reduced, in turn reducing your loved ones’ tax liability.
7. Nothing is written in stone until it is
Just because you make decisions today about how your estate is managed after you die doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind. You can change your Will at any time, reflecting changing circumstances and ensuring the right people are looked after in the way you want when you’re gone. At Carlsons we recommend you review your Will at least every 5 years anyway to make sure it’s still fit for purpose.
8. You have the peace of mind of knowing who will wind up your estate
Your Will specifies who will look after the distribution and, ultimately, closure of your estate. Your executor or executors – you can have more than one – will be responsible for paying off your outstanding financial liabilities, cancelling bank accounts and cards and dealing with all the practical issues that need to be addressed. It’s not a role for everyone and having a Will allows you to consider who is the right person to take on that task and then discuss it with them.
9. Tomorrow might be too late
No one likes thinking about their own death. We’d all rather believe we’re going to live forever. But the fact is that, like taxes, death comes to all of us and the consequences of dying without a Will in place can be expensive and upsetting for the people who are left behind.
I started this blog talking about statistics. Let’s end with another one. Each year, and excluding the tax that would normally be paid, millions of pounds passes to the UK government from the estates of those who died without a Will. It’s a sobering thought, isn’t it?