Not many people relish the idea of writing down wishes relating to their death, however, according to research by Royal London, more than half of us in the UK still don’t have one – and 5.4 million don’t even know how to get one.
Whilst it may feel like a daunting step, preparing a will is simply a reflection of what you own and, who should benefit from those things. A will is the only way to ensure that the right people inherit your property and assets and that your wishes are carried out accordingly. It is a legally enforceable document and can often have the power to override other legal rights.
For example, it is wrong to assume that unmarried, co-habiting couples will automatically inherit their partner’s belongings. Without a will, this is likely to pass to next of kin, which could be a relative, i.e. a parent, or brother or sister. We also wrote about a recent case where a re-married couple who died “intestate” (without a will) and the agony of the remaining step sisters who was to inherit the entire estate, as opposed to a 50/50 split. In both these cases, a will would have set things right. A surviving unmarried partner can benefit, and the two step sisters would have inherited an equal share.
The problem is, we quite often don’t think of wills until it is too late. For many people, death is a very distant prospect, but as we age, becomes more of a realisation. It’s important that when making a will, the individual must be of sound mind, because they must understand that what is contained in their will is legally enforceable. They must also be fully aware of any implications associated with writing a will.
If the person writing it isn’t of sound mind, you can opt for a statutory will. This is overseen by the Court of Protection, which exists to safeguard the interests of those people who may have once had mental capacity, but through illness or accident no longer have it.
If you already have a will and need to update it, your deputy or attorney can do this for you. An attorney is an individual nominated by you in a Lasting Power of Attorney document. They can then act on your behalf if you lose mental capacity and may need help with any financial affairs, such as paying rent, bills or even care home fees. They can also carry out a request for any medical treatment you wish to receive.
If this blog gets you thinking about nothing else, at the very least, make sure your will is up to date. Speak to your family about any changes that might need to be made to accommodate any additional family members and make sure your wishes are carried out.
If you would like any further advice about making a will, or a Lasting Power of Attorney, contact the Private Client team at Downs Solicitors to see how we can help. Tell us the issues and leave the rest to us.