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Dying Matters Awareness Week - Making a Will

View profile for Helen Newson
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Dying Matters is a growing coalition of individuals and organisations across the country who aim to help people talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement, and make plans for the end of life.  The theme of this year’s awareness week (13th to 19th May) is ‘Are We Ready?’

Many people don't want to think about dying. I have lost count of the number of times over the years that a client has said to me that they have been putting off making a will because they don't want to think about it, almost as if they think talking about it will make it happen!

There are several ways in which a solicitor can assist in the planning process, many of which centre on the financial side of planning, but this can also cover healthcare decisions and the practicalities of dealing with an estate.

In a series of three articles, I will outline the ways we can help. The first was Lasting Powers of Attorney, the second is on wills…

Many people die without a will, which can sometimes lead to difficulties and family disputes. By making a will, you can ensure that your estate will be dealt with by people you trust, and pass to those you wish.

If you die without a will strict rules determine who inherits your estate (the intestacy rules), and they may not be your nearest and dearest. It is therefore important that you make a will properly tailored to your circumstances.  Even if the intestacy rules state your wishes, making a will confirms in black and white that this is your choice, for the avoidance of any doubt.

Stepchildren do not stand to inherit under these rules and so if you wish to benefit a stepchild or a step-grandchild, you must state this in a will. Likewise, if you live with someone as a partner, even for many years, they will not inherit any assets in your sole name unless you specifically provide for them.

In your will, you can ensure that proper provision is made for those people you need to look after. For example, you can make financial arrangements for children while they are growing up and appoint guardians for them.

If you do not make a will, young children would inherit at age 18 which many people nowadays consider is too young to handle an inheritance of any size. In a will, you can state the age at which you wish them to receive their inheritance, eg 21 or 25.

If you have other beneficiaries with particular difficulties, for example, they are unable to handle their own finances, or are vulnerable for other reasons, we can advise on how best to structure any provision for them. 

This may involve the use of a trust which is a sophisticated legal arrangement which allows someone to benefit from a fund but either in a limited way or at the discretion of trustees whom you choose.

Conversely, there may be people who would stand to benefit under the intestacy rules, but you do not wish them to for some reason. This can be a difficult area on which to advise and so you must seek advice on your personal circumstances.

You need to consider who your executors are going to be, ie those people with responsibility for handling the estate. This is often the same family members who are to benefit but this is not always the case, for example, if they are unwell or are otherwise unable to take on this role.

With so much to consider, it’s worth seeking advice from a specialist solicitor who is accredited by the Society for Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) and/or Solicitors for the Elderly.

For more information about wills please contact our Wills & Estate Planning team on 01522 512123 (Lincoln) or 01636 673743 (Newark).