Life has certainly changed since I first started drafting wills 29 years ago. In those days a will was seen as a simple document, not much risk to our insurers and it didn’t take long to learn how to draft the same. That said, some will writers still think its ok to go on a two-week course and bingo they are qualified, but that’s another story.
I was reminded of the early part of my career this week when interviewed for a magazine. I realised that over the years I had covered many areas of law and in considerable depth. I had wanted to be a medical negligence specialist, and indeed that’s where I started out. However, the good thing about training to be a solicitor is that you are trained in a breadth of areas. So I was taught in divorce law, housing law, wills and probate and commercial litigation.
It means when I am preparing a will I have an awareness of many other issues that can have an impact on how to draft the will.
This is quite a common will for me to draft given that I deal with divorces on a daily basis. The trick here is to draft a will as soon as it is clear that you are separating. Otherwise, your spouse is still your next of kin until the divorce is finalised. Without a will excluding your spouse, they are likely to inherit the bulk of your estate. Not a very good idea if they have just run off with the milkman!
However, if you own a house together, it is no good just drafting the will. You also need to sever the joint ownership of the property; otherwise your spouse will inherit the whole house outside of your estate in any event, that is, regardless of your wishes.
Then I need to exclude your spouse from your will and explain why I am doing this. If you were to die before a financial settlement was reached with your husband or wife, I could at least show a clear intent that you did not wish them to benefit from your estate. You may think I’m fussing over nothing here. However, I've had had a number of clients die before they were divorced. At least I was able to protect their children, who then went on to inherit my client’s share of the assets. Better that than the dastardly milkman spending all of your hard earned cash.
That’s a thing? Yes, it's a common theme when I’m drafting wills. Who will care for the dogs left behind, how much is it likely to cost? Where will the carer live, what happens to the money when the dogs eventually die?
In one case that I know of, a couple had helped their elderly neighbours to run a small farm. The couple had recently retired and missed running their own farm. It kept them active and was of great assistance to the older couple. Ultimately they inherited the farm as there were no living relatives. The condition was that they had to go and live at the farm and continue to live in it until all of the domestic animals had died. There were a couple of beautiful retrievers and about six cats.
Did you know that whilst it is acceptable for an estate to pay out for a funeral it is not meant to pay for a headstone or a Wake. In one ridiculous case, some beneficiaries challenged the executors of an estate. They thought it was disgraceful that money that they could have had was spent on a headstone! Imagine that, no accounting for how tight people can be. They actually challenged this and the poor executors had to pay for the headstone from their own share of the estate.
How do you get around this problem?
I ask all of my clients if they would like a headstone or a wake. You get some odd answers!
One client who had come into a huge sum of money, and who was cared for by relatives because of their special needs, refused to allow money for a wake. If they want to celebrate my death they can do it with their own money she said grumpily.
Another client, a lovely girl, said, of course, her estate should pay for a wake. She wanted a huge party with a DJ and lots of free food and drink thrown in. She was only sorry that she wouldn’t be there to join in.
This is a common one. Imagine, you have gone to church for years, your church community forms part of your social life. You have great friends at church, and you spend a lot of time there. You would expect to have a Church funeral if you died, wouldn’t you? Not if you don’t include this in your will. You draft your will; you think everything is in order. You are single or widowed, and you don’t have children. You, therefore, decide to leave your estate to that nice nephew of yours who lives down in London. He’ll do the right thing. Will he? Or will he opt for the cheapest funeral, crematorium only? Will he see your church life as unimportant, is he an atheist, so the church isn’t on his radar. He might not even know how often you attended church.
So your poor friends have to travel across town to the crematorium if they are lucky your nephew might allow your vicar to conduct the service.
To avoid this scenario, you can instruct your solicitor to include specific instructions for your funeral within your will, including the fact that you might be an atheist. I once sat through a full requiem mass even though my relative hadn’t stepped foot in a church since he was 16. However, his sister decided that, as my relative had had the last rites, he must have the full mass.
If you need any advice about drafting your will then you can contact Emmersons and we can offer you a FREE WILL REVIEW of your existing will.
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