“Where there’s a will, I want to be in it” (Anon)
Whether you are young or old, healthy or ill, single or attached, you should have a Will. Without one, you die “intestate”, which means you forfeit your right to decide who inherits what, who administers and distributes your estate, and who looks after your children and their money. You owe it to your loved ones to spare them the inevitable financial and personal risks.
So if you don’t yet have a Will get one drawn up immediately.
Here’s a practical guide to making sure that it will protect and provide for your loved ones properly.
Do it properly with a professional
Don’t be tempted to use a template Will or to copy a friend’s; there is just too much at stake here to take any chances. Apart from all the legal formalities involved, there are a multitude of practical considerations that all call for professional help.
Badly drawn Wills risk outright invalidity, reduced tax and estate planning efficiency, confusion, doubt and dispute – our law reports are replete with bitter and costly family feuds that would have been avoided with a properly drawn and executed Will.
Appoint the right executor/s
Your estate will be administered and distributed by an executor or executors. If you decide to nominate a non-professional such as your spouse, he/she will need professional assistance so consider appointing a specialist as joint executor. Choose someone you can trust to act with absolute integrity and professionalism – you will no longer be around to keep an eye on them!
A practical plan for your loved ones
Firstly, all your bank accounts and other assets will be frozen when the executors take control and deceased estates take a long time to wind up. So check that your dependents will have enough on hand to tide them over for at least several months’ worth of living expenses. Take advice on how best to do this – common solutions include separate bank accounts and investments, life assurance policies that will pay out directly to dependents on your death, and family trusts.
Secondly, when you die your family will be in shock. Help them through the stress and anxiety of bereavement by keeping a file with everything listed below –
Where your file contains copies of documents rather than originals, say clearly where the originals are kept.
Put your file somewhere safe then tell everyone where to find it and how to access it (it’s no good telling them it’s in your safe if they don’t know where to find the safe key!).
Diarise regular reviews
All sorts of life events – marriage, divorce, deaths, births, adoptions, retirement, new family circumstances and the like – call for amendment of your Will. So diarise regular reviews and again take full professional advice on how to make any changes both validly and to best advantage.