Where There's a Will, There's a Way

Categories Will Writing, Bereavement, Blog, Estate Planning, Funeral, Wills

Making a Will is not the kiss of death!

Many people shy off from making a Will, fearing that to do so will be tempting fate. Let me reassure you that, during the five years in which I took client instructions for our firm, Chosen Inheritance, not a single mortality occurred.

It’s not just a matter of making sure your assets end up with the beneficiaries of your choice - what about the emotional reasons for making your Will?  These can carry as much weight, if not more, than the financial issues. The repercussions suffered when a loved one hasn’t made a Will can cause much heartache to those left behind. At a time when emotions are unpredictable, it’s an act of kindness on your part to ensure that you do the right thing by those left behind.

An example from my own life. My 91 year old father, a retired Scottish judge, should really know better than to not have a valid Will.  Some years ago, my husband, Peter, drafted a Scots law Will for him and my 85 year old mother. This was no mean feat given that Scots law is very different from English law. Did my father sign his Will?  No. Alas, it sits stuffed in an envelope in the back of his desk drawer, where it will undoubtedly remain, in the hope that Peter and I will “sort things out” after their deaths. My father may have been wedded to the law all of his life, but clearly this hasn’t afforded him a jot of common sense in the area of succession planning. In essence, the thought of executing his Will confronts him with his own mortality – a fact he’d rather deny, even at his ripe old age.

Below I’ll set out just a few of the many compelling emotional reasons for putting your affairs in order today with the correct Will.

What will happen to the children?
Few people are aware of the ramifications for minor children if their parents die intestate.  It’s not automatic that the surviving parent will be the one to care for the children, especially if the parents were unmarried.  There’s a real possibility that children whose parents die intestate may end up going into local authority care, while the courts sort out where they will ultimately live.  Having the appropriate Will drafted by an expert who can advise on all matters relating to guardianship, will safeguard against this catastrophe, avoiding the huge upset to both the children and the family, not to mention the attendant expense and trauma of having to go through the court process. This is perhaps one of the strongest emotional arguments to be propounded for the drafting of a Will – way before there’s any chance of needing it.

Unmarried Partners
It’s another sad fact that cohabitees often assume that they’ll inherit if their partner dies. In the absence of a Will, this isn’t the case.  A friend of ours, Victor*, recently lost his partner, Norman*, of 19 years, following a sudden heart attack.  Victor was devastated when we advised him that Norman’s mother would have first call on Norman’s assets and that Victor would be relying on her generosity for any handouts. A bitter pill to swallow after a happy and enduring 19 year relationship – and above all a totally avoidable scenario had Victor and Norman both made Wills

I’ve been married three times. I certainly wouldn’t want either of my ex-husbands to inherit the Spillman crown jewels – and I’m confident that Peter feels exactly the same way about his ex-wife! We’re both part of what’s commonly termed “a blended family” –  we have children from our different marriages, a phenomenon which is steadily on the increase. This is an area which needs tactful and careful pre-meditated consideration, to avoid the risk of duels at dawn between our respective children when Peter and I pass away. It’s also a situation which needs regular review, dependent on changing circumstances.  But again – many people who share the same scenario as myself and Peter refuse to bite the bullet, and draft a Will.

You never know what’s round the corner
Thank goodness we don’t know what’s going to happen next. If we did, we may choose not to get out of bed in the morning.  Now – say you have a divorced father and his only adult son (single with no children), both without wills, who die in a car accident. The son is presumed to have survived his father, so will inherit from his father under the intestacy rules. The son’s estate in turn will pass to his surviving parent under the intestacy rules as they apply to him. Hence the father’s ex-wife ends up with his money! What a situation to find yourself in.

Funeral Wishes
With over 6,000 clients here at Chosen Inheritance, we’ve virtually seen it all. A Will is a very important document because it sets out your final wishes, giving you peace of mind.

We were faced with the following request not so long ago: An elderly gentleman client, who had nobody else in the world, bar his dog, informed Peter where the ashes of his beloved companion were, making Peter promise that he would ensure that the ashes were buried with our client.  Naturally, Peter undertook to do his best to ensure that our client’s wishes are respected. Poignant, but true.

Do you want a church or religious service? Would you prefer to be buried or cremated?  What would you like to happen to your ashes or where would you like to be buried?  Whilst we always advise clients to “keep it simple”, we also believe that sorting out your funeral wishes now, makes it much easier for you today and for those left behind when you’re gone.

You know it makes sense
There are many reputable Will writers who will be only too happy to assist you with drafting a Will. At Chosen Inheritance, we call a Will a “Mañana product” – people always put it off until tomorrow. However, tomorrow always comes, and when it inevitably does, you’ll be hugely relieved that you’ve done the deed – so please don’t delay any further.

*Names have been changed

Cynthia Spillman is an expert contributor on overcoming adversity and bereavement, and a director of Chosen Inheritance,