Your family is that which is most precious to you. The people whose well-being is most important to you and whose future you wish to safeguard beyond anybody else’s. That’s why you provide for them; that’s why you protect them; that’s why you take out life assurance for them. But families, endearing and important though they may be, can sometimes bicker and squabble. They squabble about everything – from how high the heating should be to whose turn it is to fill the car up with petrol. But if you think they squabble a lot now, have you thought how bad things could be after you’re gone?
If you don’t make a will, you won’t have a say in what happens to your worldly possessions after you have taken your final bows, shuffled off this mortal coil and simply ceased to be. You have a vase that you wanted your neighbour’s goddaughter to have? Fine. You wanted your best friend’s nephew to get your collection of 1920s recipe books? Great. But if you die intestate, what actually happens to them might not exactly be in line with your wishes. That squabbling will reach a whole new level.
You think death is bad? In actual case, it’s far worse for your family and friends than it is for you. You get off relatively lightly – you get to sit back and do literally nothing. Meanwhile, your nearest and dearest deal with all the stress of endless arrangements and sort through all your chattels and assets.
But if you die intestate, the law will step in and decide how everything you own will be shared out – and that might spell disaster for those left to clean up the mess. Not for you, of course – you’re in the clear.
And if you have children or other family members who still depend on you financially, or even if – in a fit of magnanimity – you want to leave something to people outside your immediate family, writing a will is crucially important. There are a number of other good reasons to make a will – to reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax that your beneficiaries will have to pay on the value of the property and the money that you leave behind, for example. Whatever the reason, Investment Quorum’s experts in estate planning can tell you what you need to know and advise you on how best to draft one.
Your will makes a couple of important things clear.
- Who gets your money, your property and your possessions when you die
- Who gets to be your executor or executors – the people tasked with organising your estate and ensuring that your instructions are followed
It’s not just about money and property, though. When emotions are running high after a bereavement, it can sometimes prove difficult to reach a consensus about anything and everything – from who gets what and when they get it… to funeral arrangements. Don’t forget that making a will is an opportunity for you orchestrate your send-off and fine-tune every last detail. You can even elect to shun a traditional graveside funeral service in favour of something less mainstream – such as a Tibetan sky burial or a Nordic water burial! These and other details are all specifics you should include in your will to make decision-making easier for your loved ones after your death.
Your executor is required to go to every effort to ensure that your wishes are complied with – provided they do not involve anything illegal. Of course, it might not always be possible for them to carry out your instructions to the letter. For example, a person to whom you might wish to leave something could die before you do. But if you have created a will, there is a greater likelihood of things happening the way you would like them to.
There is no specific requirement for it to be on special paper or brimming with legal jargon. In fact, a will is considered valid provided it
- Specifies how your estate should be divided up after your death.
- Was drafted when you were of sound mind and able to make your own decisions, and were not put under pressure about who to leave your possessions to.
- Is signed and dated by you in the presence of two adult, independent witnesses. The two witnesses will then need to sign the document in your presence. Obviously, these witnesses cannot be the people who are going to inherit anything from you (nor may they be your spouse or civil partner).
Of course, if you have few dependents and you want to leave everything to them, making a will be a relatively straightforward affair. But if your circumstances are more complicated – if you have a second family, or you want to leave money and gifts to many people – your planning will need to be more intricate. Whatever the case, don’t delay.
The wealth that you have built up over your lifetime is an important part of your legacy. If you have set up a business, IQ’s estate planning experts can advise you on how best to pass on that business and discuss some of the pitfalls to avoid when leaving your inheritance to your intended beneficiaries.
There are a number of ways you can get a will written, and the cost will range from around £150 to £600, depending on how complex your circumstances and wishes are.
Bring it up when you have your next financial review with us. Successful succession planning is very much contingent on taking advice early. And once you’ve written it, keep a close eye on it. Are your chosen executors still the right people and are they still alive? Have you changed your mind about anything? Have your family circumstances changed? These are all things that you should discuss with us on a regular basis.
All the above is about what happens when you die. But there are other things to consider. Just because we are all living longer, it does not necessarily follow that we are all remaining of sound mind up until the day we take our final curtain call. Unfortunately, there is a very real possibility that you will find yourself unable to deal with your financial affairs a number of years before that point.
Lasting powers of attorney – or LPAs – are intended to fill that gap. They are a legal document under which you appoint one or more people to deal with your financial affairs and / or your health and welfare should the unthinkable happen and you find yourself unable to deal with such things yourself. A lasting power of attorney is important and should be drawn up while you still have your wits about you (they are often drawn up at the same time as a will).
At the risk of ending this article on something of a sour note, it’s worth bearing in mind that incapacity could be triggered by accident or a sudden illness, rather than gradual decline. At IQ, changes in circumstances – for better or for worse – are very much our business. So do talk to us sooner rather than later about such things.