None of us relish the prospect of our lives coming to an end despite the fact that, along with taxes, it is the only sure thing in this life. However painful and upsetting it may be to discuss, at some point it is best to sit down with your nearest and dearest and let them know how you would like the proceeds of your Estate divided up.
Starting on Friday 14th January 2011 at 9.00 p.m. on BBC 2, there is a new series entitled “Can’t take it with you” in which Sir Gerry Robinson gives an insight into exploring the making of Wills and some of the complications we may not readily think of. In our view it is well worth watching.
Below Sir Gerry Robinson sets out his ‘Ten Commandments’ for ensuring your Will is made correctly;-
1. “Don’t be superstitious; There is a sense that you are playing with fate when you write a Will; that with three seconds of thought you realise it won’t make you die. Confront your mortality. Some decisions have to be made with the logical side of the Brain.
2. Have a Family Meeting first; Talk about what you plan to put in your Will preferably with everyone present. Be fair and be seen to be fair. It is crucial to discuss your estate and explain why you are leaving what to whom. You need to explain the reasons behind your decision; otherwise people can be hurt and feel they were closed off. You can’t explain from beyond the grave.
3. Clarity; Be crystal clear about every detail but the most important thing is to confront the hard things you prefer to leave fluffy because they are so difficult to voice. You have to make your Will crisp and face up to the emotional reality. You cannot assume you can leave it to others to do the right thing.
4. Listen to your Lawyer; there is no question that a professional view point is a great help. Lawyers take on the role of a referee. It doesn’t cost that much to get decent advice.
5. Be aware of the challenge of common law partnerships and step children;– extended Families are a hugely messy business. Wills are even more important now that families are extraordinarily complicated and this makes it all the more necessary to spell things out clearly. You need to make provision for those who would not be covered automatically if you died without making a Will.
Take a couple who have lived together and have had a child, then got married to each other and had a second child. If there was no Will theoretically the only child that legally inherit would be the child of the marriage. You would hope that right would prevail but in sad circumstances perhaps that would have to be resolved in the Courts, and who could afford to go to the Law over Wills?
Common-Law Partners are equally vulnerable where property is involved. Thirty per cent of Co-Habiting couples aren’t married, would have children from a previous relationship. If you own a house together and you are not married, your possessions and property will go to your children if there was no Will. It is advisable to make life-long provision for your Partner as he or she will have no automatic rights over your Estate.
Step-children are another complicated issue. If you are a Parent of a child and you are their only source of [Inherited] Income, and you are also Step Parents to children who will inherit when their Mother or Father dies, its fair that your child might get a larger provision from your Will. It is not sneaky or underhand, that you have to be open about this to prevent rifts between siblings.
6. Separate emotions from practicalities; you should try desperately hard to put aside your own feelings and be fair. Wills can be very powerful vehicles for dealing with issues. They can help to clarify situations. Obviously, family disagreements are difficult, but once things are out in the open, the ease of which these things can be sorted our is astonishing. The Will is an entirely personal thing. It is about your possession. It shouldn’t stop you from going ahead if everyone doesn’t agree but most people do.
7. Don’t try to control from beyond the grave; If you can, you should avoid, making conditions. You shouldn’t try to make people live their life in a certain way before they benefit from your Will. Death is hard enough without making it more painful.
8. Don’t let ignorance make your DIY Will invalid; If you are not prepared to pay a Lawyer, it is perfectly legal to write a Will yourself, but it must be witnessed by two people neither of whom will benefit from your Will.
9. Up-date your Will; Life moves on, so it is advisable that you look at your Will every 3 or 4 years. It is very easy to up-date. Legally this is called a Codicil. Getting your Will done in the first place is a milestone but once its done it is easy to amend.
10. Keep your Will safe once it is written; Keep a copy at home and make sure that the person you are closest to knows where it is. Your Lawyer should have one to. If you have written the Will yourself you can still keep a copy at your local Lawyer’s Office. It is not a hugely expensive thing to do”.
Wise words from someone who knows. So if you are thinking of making a new will or updating your old one give Sharon Moore a call and we’ll guide you through the process as painlessly as possible.