Game of Thrones star Iain Glen has urged everyone to own up to the inevitable and make a will. Whilst Iain’s Game of Thrones character Jorah Mormont recovers from the deadly disease greyscale; real life is not the same. The actor says, “Cheating death is only an option in fiction. Making a will is really about owning up to the inevitable. We organise ourselves in life and so we should in death by clarifying our final wishes. I urge people to make an appointment with their local solicitor as soon as they possibly can.”
The actor went on to say that he found making a will a happy, comforting and cathartic experience knowing that you will be providing for and making things that much easier for your loved ones.
So why do you put off making your own will?
Yet by the time I was 37 I had lost three close friends to cancer. By the time I was 47 another one of my friends had died of a heart attack and one in a car accident. As you can imagine I was shocked by all of this. I queried this with my vicar, and he was of the opinion that the first spike in deaths occurs in the age group the late 30s to early 40’s, there is another spike when we reach our late 50’s. The good news is that if we make it through that little lot, we are likely to live well into old age. These were not the statistics I was expecting, after all, we associate early death with the Victorian era.
This is a frequent reaction to any discussion around death or planning for the same. I understand the thinking behind this. But is that going to do your family any favours if you die without making a will? Who is your next of kin? Who will inherit if you die intestate? I can assure you it is not your cohabitee, the person you think of as your common-law husband or wife, there is no such legal concept in this country.
It may be that you have been living together for years and the house may be in joint names, in which case if owned on a “joint” basis, as opposed to say a 50/50 basis, the house will be fine. But if you don’t have children, your parents will be your next of kin. Do you want them to inherit your savings, other properties you own, your share of your business, your car etc.
It is not uncommon for our clients at Emmersons Solicitors to have one dominant adult child. The one who is always broke and just needs another handout. They can be very persuasive, “look, my sister has married well, she doesn’t need money from your estate as I do.” Or the child who says “I have done everything for you, you need to leave me more money in your estate.” One of my friends was left to sort out her mother’s estate. She was shocked to find that her brother, who was an alcoholic and on the dole, and who hadn’t visited his mother for twelve years, had managed to extract over £20,000 from his mother by writing begging letters. All of the letters were there in a pile.
If you come in to see us at Emmersons Solicitors, we can offer you a logical approach. Have you felt browbeaten into offering loans or gifts to one family member? If so, why not leave the first part of your estate to the others. In a case that I dealt with, a daughter had fallen on hard times, so her mother had loaned her £30,000. The will was written to allow the other child an amount the same as any part of the unpaid loan at the time of death and the rest of the estate to be shared equally.
It can be difficult to decide how much to leave any kind neighbours or friends. I would always suggest leaving this as a percentage of your estate. It might seem like a good idea to leave Betty £10,000 when your estate is worth £250,000. But by the time you have been on a few cruises, “found yourself” in Outer Mongolia and bought yourself that Porsche you always wanted, £10,000 maybe all you have left!
Have you thought about who will become the guardians of your children if they are orphaned during childhood? More importantly, where will they live, who will pay to feed, clothe and educate them? I always suggest that those acting as trustees, that is managing the money, it should not be a couple. Many of our clients appoint our solicitors as trustees to manage money on behalf of children.
I know that making a will is not the first thing that anyone thinks about unless they know they are dying. In fact, Phrases You Never Hear - “Darling, instead of that lovely lunch we promised ourselves why don’t we pop into Emmersons Solicitors to make our wills.” I know that making your will is a grudge purchase, I feel exactly the same about going to the dentist. But it has to be done to save your family heartache and expense.
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