Why Wills are for the Living – (Serious Encounters with Public Transport)

Yes, we’re afraid we’re going to talk about wills.

Writing a will doesn’t sound as exciting as buying a house, does it? Despite this, we’re setting out to convince you that it really is a worthwhile thing to do and it really is the sort of thing you should be considering, even if you’re really young and really healthy. (Yes, really).

Let’s start with a question: when we say writing a will, what sort of a picture does this bring up in your mind? Are you, by any chance, imagining some kind of Dickensian death bed scene attended by a solicitor in a long black frock coat?!

Let us assure you that the actual process of writing a will is very, very different to this. Firstly, our solicitors do not wear frock coats. Not even on special lawyer-ly occasions. Instead, we are (mainly) normally dressed people who are committed to making sure you’ve got your affairs in order should the unexpected happen.

Generally speaking, anyone over the age of eighteen can make a will (though there are some exceptions for people under the age of eighteen who are in the armed services).

Who can make a will?

You also need to be of sound mind. This bit is important, as it makes it difficult for your relatives to make too much of a fuss later on should you decide to leave everything to the local cat’s home.

Who should make a will?

You might think you’re too young to make a will. It certainly might feel that way and we hate to put a downer on things… but the reality is that none of us know what’s around the corner. Life is unpredictable and there’s no way of knowing whether you’re going to make it to a decent pensionable age or not.

Unlike the death bed image many people consider the ideal will making time, we believe the most important time to make a will is when you’re in the prime of your life, particularly if you have young children.

Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t yet share this belief. Research done by the insurance company Royal London shows that a quite-simply-shocking 54% of adults in the UK don’t have a will. Perhaps even more eye-opening is the fact that 59% of parents either don’t have a will or have one that’s no longer valid.

A morbid thought experiment

Forgive us, we’re going to make a rather morbid detour here. Consider this: if something awful happened to you today, what would you be leaving behind?

Any property, assets and debts (yes, that includes your mortgage) would need to be dealt with by your loved ones and family members. Your children and pets would also need to be cared for. We imagine you have a few thoughts on who should do this and how they should do it.

If you were to leave this mortal coil without having left a will, you’d be leaving the government to decide on how all of this would be done. Intestacy rules would be used to determine who would inherit your estate, and a court would need to decide who were the right people to act as legal guardians for your children.

It’s prudent for us to mention here that the intestacy rules would only allow someone to inherit your estate if they were either:

  1. Currently married or in a civil partnership with you
  2. Related to you by blood or legal adoption (e.g. children, grandchildren, parents or siblings).

Under these rules, cohabitating partners are not able to inherit, even if you’ve lived together for donkey’s years and have children together. You may consider yourself as good as married; the law does not.

Equally, only biological children or legally adopted children would be able to inherit from you. This means that step children would not inherit on this basis, no matter how much you love them, how long they’ve been part of your life or how many of their parents’ evenings you’ve attended.

As a final word of warning here, just because you’ve made a will in the past does not mean it is still valid now. Certain things can make a will invalid, such as getting married or entering a civil partnership, or getting divorced or dissolving a civil partnership. If you’re unsure, we’d suggest a quick chat with a solicitor.

Making a will gives you peace of mind

We’re sorry if we’ve given you reason to panic. Having said that: we do want you to understand just how important it is to make a will.

With any luck the document will sit locked away in an official filing cabinet long after your children are grown up. However, there are occasions when it won’t. And it’s for these very unfortunate occasions that we want to make sure you’ve got yourself covered.

When you make a will, what you’re really doing is buying yourself peace of mind. Think of it as like an insurance policy; you probably won’t need it, but if you do everyone around you will be mightily glad it’s there.

In other words, having a will allows you to live life however you want, without that nagging voice asking who’s going to care for your children should you have an unlucky encounter with the number 67 bus.

How do you go about making a will?

If you’re one of the 5.4 million adults without a will who has no idea where to start (thanks again for the research, Royal London), don’t worry.

The process of making a will is actually incredibly simple.

  1. Find a solicitor you like and trust.
  2. Sit down with that solicitor and talk through what you’d want to happen to your children and your assets in the case of your death.
  3. Your solicitor will write all of this up with a bit of legal flourish and provide you with a document to sign.
  4. Your solicitor can arrange to register the will with the Certainty National Will Register, so your loved ones would be able to locate it quickly if they needed to.
  5. Your solicitor will then make sure the original will is stored safely.

After all this, you’ll be able to breathe a big sigh of relief, safe in the knowledge that if the unexpected happens, your wishes will be known.

There’s something very comforting about knowing you’ll be properly providing for your loved ones in these scenarios… whether the loved ones in question happen to be small children or four-legged friends.

Do you need help getting your ducks in a row? We don’t want to be seen to be tooting our own trumpet here… but we are excellent duck herders. Why not read about our will making services?