Can you afford to wait until you’re old before you make a will? If not, when is the right time?
The answer to the first question is, of course, NO! Don’t wait! We simply don’t know what’s around the corner and the repercussions of leaving no will can be truly disastrous for those left behind. Bearing in mind it is likely they will be grieving, it is surely a no brainer to alleviate some of the practical pain and anguish by making a will.
It seems sensible that the final point when you should go to a solicitor and make your Will is when you have something of value that you want to pass on or protect. For many people, that’s when they buy their first house or start a family; maybe having a special piece of jewellery such as a sparkly engagement ring.
What happens if you don’t make a will?
But so many people put off making a will, believing it perhaps to be an unnecessary expense and always hoping there will be time ahead to get to grips with it. Maybe they find it too difficult to think about (fearful of their mortality) but if the worst happens, the consequences of not having a legal will can be dreadfully upsetting, ridiculously expensive and far-reaching.
If something happens to you and you haven’t made a will, you die “intestate” which in reality means that ancient laws kick in to dictate how and with whom your estate is divided. Having an up to date will allows you to make your own choices and protect those for whom you care the most, rather than distant relatives you never knew.
Know when to update your will
A solicitor acquaintance of mine recommends that you check your will is up to date at least every five years. It’s important that the people you have chosen as executors are still alive and capable of overseeing or carrying out your wishes. There may be other changes you need to make depending on how the last five years have panned out.
Some life events can mean that your will is automatically obsolete; these include marriage or divorce and its vital you remember to go along and make a new will, even if your wishes are the same.
A marriage certificate cancels a will unless it has been specifically referred to in that will. A finalised divorce means the ‘ex’ is treated as if he or she has died and is not allowed to act as an executor or receive any gifts.
If you don’t make a will, things can go wrong
Another important emotional consideration must surely be to protect the people you have left behind. I knew a man who had been told to expect a valuable property from his step-father’s estate and the whole family knew about this wish. Sadly, because the stepfather hadn’t made a will and the man wasn’t a blood relative, he received absolutely nothing while the stepfather’s brothers and sister inherited the property through the laws of intestacy. Not only was the man obviously upset and disappointed not to inherit such a valuable gift, he was also left feeling betrayed and needed long term counselling to recover emotionally.
If you are looking to make a will, you should consult the internet and the local papers as there are regular offers posted by law firms. Another idea worth consideration is to see if your local hospice has a will writing service; this often means that a portion of the fee goes to charity.
Whatever happens, start planning to make a will.