Geldards partners Claire Johnson and Erica Thomson are expert wills and probate lawyers. Below they explain when and why people should make a will and what common mistakes they see and hear.
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly in our technologically advanced and sophisticated consumer world, many people still tend to think of a making a will in quite old-fashioned terms, a ‘Last Will and Testament’, something quite final to be tackled in much later life.
In fact, making a will and reviewing it regularly should be a straightforward and positive experience. It is a must have for anyone, whatever their stage in life, who has money or other assets and family or loved ones for whom they would want to provide for when they are not around. Having an appropriate will in place should be one of life’s essentials, to be put in place and reviewed every few years or sooner if circumstances change significantly. Buying a first property, moving in with a partner or getting married, becoming a parent, setting up in business, or making or receiving a substantial gift are just some examples of life events when people need to think about whether their will planning is up to date.
As every probate solicitor will tell you, having an appropriate will in place is the only way to make sure those close to you are provided for in the way you would want. As well as giving you and them peace of mind, it could also reduce the risk of a dispute within the family and may even help avoid an unnecessary inheritance tax bill.
People sometimes make the mistake of thinking their affairs are too simple to need a will. They may assume that their spouse will automatically inherit everything anyway when that isn’t always the case or they may not realise that a long-term partner will have no automatic right to a share of their estate if they don’t leave a will. Others mistakenly believe that because their family circumstances are complicated, planning a will is just too tricky, so they put it off. The good news is that there are usually effective legal solutions to these dilemmas, for example, to provide for a second spouse whilst making sure their children’s eventual inheritance is protected or to deal with shares in a business in an appropriate and tax efficient way in the event of the death of one of the business owners. The fact that none of us have a crystal ball, for example when it comes to providing for adult children who are not yet settled in life, shouldn’t mean putting off making a will either, a well drafted will can be flexible enough to take account of the circumstances of those intended to benefit at the relevant time.
In an ideal world, families would talk about will planning much more openly, across the generations. In my experience many people underestimate how emotive an issue the will can become amongst family members after someone has died. A solicitor specialising in wills and probate will have seen it all. Their input can be invaluable, therefore, when it comes to people making informed choices about who to appoint as executor, for example, or what to bear in mind if someone in the family is likely to be disappointed or difficult about the will.
A will is one of the most important and powerful documents you will ever make, so investing in professional help is well worthwhile.
For more information about planning your will, please contact Claire Johnson or Erica Thomson from the Geldards Private Client team.