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1 April 2015

7 reasons not to make a Will

As solicitors, we advise that everyone should make a Will, and in response to this we hear a variety of reasons for not making one.

The main ones, in no particular order, are:

  • I haven’t got anything to leave
  • Wills are for old people
  • My husband/wife/children will get it all anyway
  • I don’t have anyone to leave it to
  • It’s too difficult to decide what to do
  • I haven’t got time
  • It’s too expensive

I haven’t got anything to leave: There aren’t many people who don’t have personal possessions; a bank account; or a car.  Even if you don’t have much – without a Will appointing executors, who will deal with what you have got?  For younger people, their most important consideration is their children – with a Will they can appoint guardians to look after their children.

Wills are for old people: We all have one thing in common – at some point we will all die, but we cannot chose the time of our passing and we may not have any warning.  Although we would all hope to live to a ripe old age, there is no guarantee.  Regardless of age: if you have money or property; if you have children or no children; if you are married, or cohabiting or single, you should have a Will.

My husband/wife/ children will get it all: This is not necessarily the case.  Under the intestacy rules, your spouse may not receive everything if you have children.  If you survive your husband or wife, your children will benefit under the intestacy rules on your death – but your step-children will not.  If you have no children, or they don’t survive you, do you have any idea who will benefit?  Why leave it to chance?

I don’t have anyone to leave it to: You may have seen from the Heir Hunters programmes on television, that for those people who don’t have close family, their estate may end up being distributed between numerous distant family members all over the world, who they have never met and who have never even heard of them.  Would you really want your money and property to pass to second cousins in Canada – or even the Crown?  Surely it would be much better to benefit friends and neighbours who have been kind or helpful to you, and also charities who can use your money to do good?

It’s too difficult to decide what to do: Possibly the worst reason or excuse of all, but it is not an uncommon situation.  For example, you may have spent years building up the family business, and some of your children have joined the business and worked hard at it while others have moved away and made their careers elsewhere.  You want to be fair to all your children and also to see the business continue – but if you leave everything to your children equally, the business will have to be sold to pay them out – if you do nothing, that is exactly what will happen.  You need to speak to your solicitor and your professional advisers, as they will have come across this situation before and will be able to advise you on a practical solution.

I haven’t got time: People can always make time for things they want to do or have to do – and whilst making a Will is not particularly something to look forward to, it really is just as necessary as arranging your car or home insurance, getting the car serviced, and so on.  You don’t necessarily need to spend a lot of time in the solicitor’s office, as your thinking can be done at home and initial instructions can often be taken on the phone or by email, so you might only need a short meeting with the solicitor – which could be at the start or end of your working day.

It’s too expensive: Compared to what?  A weekend away; a new washing machine?  Just think of the cost of your last car repair bill or service – whilst your car may be essential, the expenses are ongoing.  The cost of a Will is a one-off cost, unless your circumstances or wishes change, and the cost is not high when you consider the value of the money and property which passes under the Will.

A word of warning: Don’t be tempted to “shop around” for the cheapest “deal” – you generally get what you pay for.  You may reply to a magazine advert, or your bank may offer you a “free” Will, but you won’t meet the person who prepares your Will, they will just interpret your written form or the instructions taken by a salesperson.  And certainly don’t be tempted to write your own Will, it is all too easy to be ambiguous, or to use a word which has a legal meaning which you didn’t intend.  There is no substitute for seeing your local specialist solicitor.