Let's Talk About Death

We are very happy to blog and Tweet about most aspects of our lives. So why, when we are sharing such intimate details, is talk of death still such a taboo subject? Take the example of Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan. Last week they were splashed all over the newspapers with the news that they have an assisted death pact. OK, I know it was Dying Awareness Week but we have lapped up all manner of stories about them in the past without much social comment. Is the nation really that horrified by the thought that Richard and Judy have discussed their end of life plans?

The reality is that we have all experienced a family member being taken from us and death will come to us all. Yet, did you know that only 20% of people in their thirties have made a will. Even more surprising is that 40% of those aged over 55 have simply not got around to planning who gets what when they die.

So millions of people who own assets worth considerable sums, and who have families they love and care for have just failed to make a will. Is it fear, finance or procrastination that drives this behaviour? In fairness, it is probably a combination of all three. However, summarised as briefly as possible are the reasons why you should put it off no longer and take action now:

  • If you do not have a Will, it won’t “all be taken by the government” as is sometimes assumed (or even reported). There are specific rules (the Intestacy Rules) which say who gets what from your estate.
  • Generally a spouse or a registered civil partner is first in line to receive assets but they will not necessarily receive everything. It depends on the size of the estate. Next in the queue are children, grandchildren, siblings and their children. The list of family tree members goes on; the division can be complex and can involve trusts. It is really not how anyone would choose to divide up their estate
  • The Intestacy Rules make no provision at all for unmarried cohabitees
  • In very extreme circumstances, if you genuinely have no relatives everything would pass to the Crown or the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall.
  • Parents who both die without Wills generally have no control over who are appointed as guardians of their young children.

So the best way to save your loved ones extra grief and give them full control is to make a will. There are many types of wills available and to find out the best option to suit your individual needs and to give you and loved ones peace of mind you really should consult a professional. The cost depends upon how complex your estate and wishes. As with nearly all aspects of life, you have a choice:

  • Instruct a solicitor - usually perceived as more expensive than other options but not always so either in the short term or long term. Generally highly qualified; always highly regulated and insured.
  • A will writing service – often (but not always) cheaper than solicitors. Sometimes (but not always) qualified, regulated or insured.
  • DIY – no cost but you take on all the risk
  • Leave no Will – can you take the risk?

If you are thinking of writing your own Will, just bear in mind this little titbit. If it bears staple marks, has a paperclip attached or even the indentation from a paperclip it could be invalidated. Why? You may not be able to prove that there is no additional document misplaced somewhere.

The bottom line? Always consult an expert and you pay for what you get.

For more information or to discuss your Estate Planning needs please contact me or the Private Client Team on 01743 280280.