Regrettably most of us are worth more on death, than alive. The common old excuse “sure I have nothing to leave" is rarely, if ever, true!
If you have children and have not made a Will since you started a family, you risk exposing them to unnecessary financial and emotional uncertainty.
Many people presume their nearest and dearest will inherit what they leave behind but your "legal" next of kin may not be who you expect.
If you are unmarried but have a long term partner and child together, your child will inherit your estate if you die without a Will and NOT your partner. Yet most unmarried couples would wish, and expect, that their partner would be first in line to inherit, and their child second. If married, your partner moves to first in line but does not necessarily take all of your estate.
By making a Will you control who inherits and how much of your estate each of your chosen beneficiaries receive. Otherwise laws made many years ago, which many feel are outdated, direct who the recipients will be.
By making a Will, family disputes and uncertainties can be avoided and your chosen beneficiaries can be financially supported. Cohabitation, divorce, and being part of a "step" family are now common experiences. If you have not made a Will, these are all complicating factors.
Solicitors experienced in making Wills do much more than note your thoughts. They help you consider issues you will not have thought about, as they are experienced in both the pitfalls of bad drafting, and most effective ways to achieve you intentions. Home made Wills are possible but fraught with danger and should be avoided.
There are a number of important issues to consider when making provision for children in a Will, as they cannot hold assets in their own name until aged 18. Trustees should be appointed to hold the children's inheritance until the age you specify, possibly 21 or 25. In the meantime the Trustees can be given powers such as applying part of their entitlement for education or general maintenance. The choice of Trustees is very important and your Solicitor can guide you on the qualities and experience necessary.
In a Will you can also specify who should be the legal guardian of your children if they lose both parents.
Despite having the power to control the destiny of all your assets and wealth, the cost of making a Will is very modest. Charges vary and Solicitors will give you a quote at the outset. Taking the first step of arranging an appointment to discuss a Will is always the most difficult. After that an experienced Solicitor should relieve you of your concerns by discussing options and settling your wishes in the form of a Will.
Planning ahead can save money and heartache, and most importantly will ensure YOU are in control of what happens after your death.
Claire Edgar is a partner with Francis Hanna & Co. Solicitors and specialises in family law.