We are all going to die.
There, I've said it. It's a horrible truth and an even worse opening line but it's such an important thing for us to accept when it comes to reducing the stress and heartache that it will inevitably cause when the day comes.
The article below is a perfect example of this. It shows the issues caused by the failure of, in this case, a man to sign his will which would have otherwise provided for his partner of 25 years. The failure to sign it has resulted in huge cost, the destruction of otherwise good relations in the family and heartache for all involved.
(It is really important to note that for cohabiting couples, there is no such thing as a "common law" marriage. On death or separation, cohabiting couples have very few rights and remedies against each other and, sadly, they often lead to very costly litigation.)
On the one hand we could say that by having a will prepared, our male protagonist took the first step on the path. Sadly, he did not manage the second by signing it.
We will never know why the it wasn't signed. Perhaps he changed his mind. I expect, however, that the relatively onerous signing procedure (in simple terms you must have two witnesses with you when you sign the will) will have meant he just never got round to it.
That being said, if you are going to grapple with the realities of a will, it is so important to make a proper job of it. It is a false economy to use a home made will, and I would go so far to say that a cheap professionally drafted will is unlikely to be good enough and in my experience can often produce worse results than doing nothing at all!
I realise that as a solicitor dealing with this sort of work, I sound a little self-serving to say the least, but there is no shortcut. Time and care needs be taken (and therefore money spent) to make sure that your personal affairs are considered in the round.
If you are starting from scratch:
- Step one is to work out what you would like to happen to your assets in the event of your death.
- Step two is to have an experienced solicitor test that plan against their experience. Coupled with the questions they will have asked to gain an understanding of your personal affairs, they should be able to identify the issues that your plan might cause (e.g. unnecessary inheritance tax and obvious areas that may cause divisions in the family).
- Step three is to adjust the plan (if necessary), have the will prepared and then sign it.
- Step four is to keep things under review!
‘I’d known his children since they were little and we’d always had a good relationship,’ says Sally. ‘But I know they despise me now, and, for my part, I feel I’ve been treated very unfairly. People behave like vultures to get what they can. ‘If there had been a will it would have been so straightforward, but instead there’s a rift between my daughter and her half-siblings. With all that’s happened, I haven’t been able to grieve fully and have been suffering with anxiety. The consequences of Carl not validating his will have been horrific.’