Having the Will to look to the future
Whilst it may appear to members of the general public that they are being constantly being reminded by individuals such as myself and campaigns from the law firms we represent of the importance of making a Will, recent statistics show that a large percentage of the population have made no such legal provision for their finances after they die.
When I sat down to write this column I began to think what I could say that other people may not have done and would highlight the real need there is for people to make a Will. Whilst I personally am a specialist in Wills and Probate, we have a litigation department here at Eric Robinson Solicitors and some of our biggest cases have been as a result of inadequate provision of an individual’s assets after they have passed away.
In one case, an elderly lady died without having made any Will at all. Though her house was subsequently bestowed upon her next of kin, she had other relatives living in it at the time of her passing. Though this was not a permanent arrangement, they refused to move out of the property and the beneficiaries have spent a fortune following the legal process to have them removed so they can sell the property and distribute the proceeds.
Other cases we have worked on have involved the deceased leaving one of the many ‘Do It Yourself’ Wills that are available to buy on the high street. These are adequate where someone has straight-forward requests in relation to the distribution of their assets, but if there are any complexities, these wills don’t seem to be very effective - they often don’t give enough detail and guidance as to the deceased’s wishes.
These days, an estate worth between three and four hundred thousand pounds is considered ‘small’ by the Probate courts and it can be distressing to see how much of its value can be eaten up in legal fees as a result of situations such as the one described above or fighting off the claims of interested parties to have a Will reviewed.
No one wants to think of their relatives fighting after they are gone and losing the benefits of what has been left them, so why are people still not making Wills?
In my opinion, it is because the contemplation of one’s death is unpleasant. When we are young, we think we will live forever. For most of us, it isn’t easy to sit and draw up a document on the basis that we will be dead before it comes into effect. The older we get, the clearer it gets that this is a task that should not be put off. Not everyone, unfortunately, has the luxury of growing old enough to cheerfully draw up a will before they die.
Leaving your assets for other people to benefit from is an act of kindness, so please make sure you complete the gift my giving your benefactors the ability to fight off the advances of any predatory claims.
I know that you may think I have a vested interest, but my message to anyone with any assets, no matter how small you think they may be, is to make a will and ensure that everything in it is iron-clad so a challenge is less likely. Lawyers often make a great deal more contesting a Will than making one and, though it may be considered rather distasteful to challenge the wishes of a person who has passed away, it is frequently tried.