You probably had great intentions of spending January fulfilling your New Year resolutions; however, with this year off to a turbulent start, maybe now is the time to ease up on the resolutions and, as we all stay at home, focus on your home life and your loved ones.
This could include focusing on your later life planning needs, ensuring that your wealth is protected for your future generations.
Let’s face it, whatever you do in life you will want your nearest and dearest to benefit from your hard work when you die. The only way you can be sure that this will happen is to make a Will. Without a Will, your estate will be distributed according to what is known as the Rules of Intestacy, which can mean that your money and possessions end up where you didn’t want them, including perhaps with relatives you haven’t seen for years. Contrary to popular belief, your estate does not necessarily pass to your husband, wife or civil partner, and if the person who dies has a partner whom they haven’t married or have a civil partnership with, then that partner will receive nothing at all!
As well as ensuring whom your estate passes to, your Will allows you to appoint legal guardians for your children should they be under the age of eighteen when you die. If you don’t, the decision could be left to the family courts who may choose a person that you would not want to be involved in your child’s upbringing. You can also ensure that the inheritance your children do receive is passed to them in a timely controlled manner, ensuring that it is used for their education or a deposit on a new house rather that a brand new sports car or the latest designer bag!
Your Will can also provide a mechanism to protect your most valuable assets, be it protecting a share of your family home from being used for care home fees, protecting your hard-earned assets from eventually passing to a second husband or wife (or their children) should the surviving spouse re-marry, helping to reduce Inheritance Tax liability or protecting assets from future bankruptcy or divorce of your children. With a properly drafted Will, all of this can be achieved.
Unfortunately, all too often we are coming across disgruntled family members who have been disinherited due to there being no Will or where the wishes in that Will were not made clear. The law also states that where there is no Will only spouses or blood relatives can inherit, so although your family circumstances may mean that step-children are a big part of your life, where there is no Will they would inherit nothing at all.
It is a well known fact that having a pet helps alleviate stress and provides a much needed companion, becoming a valued member of the family. With a surge of pet adoptions during lockdown, it is all the more important to make provision in your Will to provide and protect your pet for the rest of their life. Caring for a pet can be a financial burden and it is a good idea to leave in your Will a sum of money to the carer who you trust will provide your pet with a loving and caring home: none more than Dusty Springfield who left very specific instructions in her Will. Dusty Springfield demanded that her cat, Nicholas, be fed imported baby food, live in an outdoor tree house, be sung to at night with Dusty’s old records, have his bed lined with Dusty’s pillowcase and nightgown and get married to a friend’s female cat. All her wishes came true!
During lockdown, charities have had immense pressure imposed on their ability to fund-raise. It may be the case that you wish to consider leaving a gift in your Will to your supported charity. As well as supporting a good cause, by leaving a charitable gift it is also possible to potentially reduce the amount of Inheritance tax payable by your estate should your Will be correctly drafted.
Any particular funeral wishes or requests can also be included in your Will, including organ donation. The law changed last year to an opt out system, known as Max’s and Keira’s Law, where all adults agree to be organ donors unless they have made it known that they do not wish to donate; so if that is the case those wishes can be expressed in your Will. However, it is important to note that such decisions have to be made at short notice so it is important that you make your wishes known to your family during your lifetime. It may also be that you have very specific wishes regarding your cremation or burial. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, did just that by requesting that his ashes were scattered in space. His wishes were fulfilled!
I hope that this has given you some food for thought, and whilst anybody can make a Will, it is so important that this is done correctly. Obviously, I’m biased, but it still astounds me that people try to save a few pounds drawing it up themselves. The irony being that, trying to sort out the mess these Wills leave behind, can end up costing far more than any money saved by not having the task done by an expert in the first place. It is important not to confuse cost with value. Your Will is possibly the most important document you will write in your life. Don’t underestimate the value of having it drawn up properly with a solicitor’s specialist advice.
Samantha Anastasiou – Solicitor – Michael Anvoner & Company