I once had a client who signed his Will on a Friday and then very sadly took his own life that very weekend. I was a Trainee Solicitor at the time and I remember the total shock and disbelief I felt on hearing the news that following Monday morning.
Whatever mental anguish my client had been feeling he had the presence of mind to get his affairs in order. Whatever was going through his mind, making a Will was a top priority. This, fortunately, is a very unusual situation. We should, however, learn something from this sombre tale; that as far as writing a Will is concerned there is no time like the present. Most of us don’t feel such urgency to write a Will, but we should. After all, we don’t know what’s around the corner.
What happens to your estate if no Will has been left?
Over 70% of us die without leaving a Will, leaving instead a trail of confusion and complication for our loved ones. Frustrating, when this confusion could so easily be avoided. Choosing not to make a Will means choosing the rules of intestacy. I do wonder how many of the 70% actually know how these rules would apply to their estate. It is very rare that these government made rules follow the wishes of the individual. They are only really appropriate in ‘standard’ families where you are married and have joint children, with no children from earlier relationships. Even then, the intestacy rules will cause problems when an estate is worth over a certain amount.
The intestacy rules have a devastating effect on unmarried couples. They mean that your partner will not receive a penny from your estate. This is not to mention the fact that by not making a Will you are missing the valuable opportunity of appointing a guardian for your children. Without a Will no one has authority to deal with your estate. A close family member will have to apply to the court for a Grant of Probate (also known as a Grant of Representation). Even in low value cases. This is a cost that could easily be avoided if there was a Will in place.
This then leads to the question of which individual or individuals should apply to deal with the estate.
Who deals with your estate after death?
The person(s) who deals with your estate administration is known as an executor. You alone are best placed to appoint the right person. So who could it be?
Next of kin? Yes, but what if there are two or more children? What if the children don’t get on? Yes, a Will stipulates who is to have what, but just as importantly you should appoint an executor to deal with the estate administration. You know better than anyone which members of your family or friends are able to deal with this responsibility.
A well thought out appointment of executors and a well drafted Will can save a family. Sadly, family fallouts and comments such as, “we got on well before Dad died but…” and, “I’ve seen a side to my brother that I never knew existed” are only too common. Is this the legacy that you want to leave?
How did writing a Will help my clients family?
My client made a very fair and sensible Will. He was, at the time of his death, going through a divorce and the financial settlement was imminent. A sum of money was left to his wife, equivalent to the amount that she would have taken from the divorce. He had a successful business that was reliant on him and that would need to be sold. His Accountant and Solicitor had first-hand knowledge of his business so he appointment them as executors. He also expressed his funeral wishes, was generous to a number of charitable causes, and left the balance of his estate in a Trust for his daughter on reaching the age of 25.
As with any death his family were left heartbroken but he tried, as much as he could, to leave the estate administration as simple as possible for them.
It just goes to show that we can’t predict what is around the corner. We should make sure our affairs are in order so that our families are left with peace of mind should the inevitable happen sooner than we expect.
For more information on creating a Will or appointing the right executors, please contact our Personal Law team on 0161 475 7676.