2021.13: Plan: Validly Documented Wishes?

Death is not something we like to think about or discuss, but it is an inevitable occurrence that will come to us all at some point!  In reality therefore, once we have a bit of net worth, children or spouses, then we should be thinking about death and what we want to happen after our passing (by writing a Will).

I have struggled with this over the years!  I say to myself I don’t have much, and then say when I finish the purchase of this or that asset, but then never get round to making my will!  More recently, it’s been about how to structure my estate, that’s held me back!  So I recently spoke to a friend (shout out Friend, you know who you are) and in that discussion I realised I was over-complicating things!   First things first, put something in place and bearing in mind that as long as I am alive, I could change it. 

The worst thing though, would be to die without a “valid” will i.e. die ‘Intestate’ as it is described.  The reason for this is that the decision of what happens with your belongings (your money, property, assets, etc. – known as your Estate) would then be dependent on the laws of intestacy!  Someone other than you, decides how your belongings should be distributed – the law!  What the law decides however may not necessarily be how you would have shared your belongings, if you had just taken the time to make a will while alive.

Below is the order in which your belongings will be distributed if you die intestate in U.K. and Wales:

  • The spouse or civil partners – will inherit everything if the person who died had no children; or will inherit the first £270,000 if they had children.
  • Children, if there is a surviving spouse or civil partner – will inherit what remains after the first £270,000 has been passed to the living spouse or civil partner.  If the estate is not worth up to £270,000, the children get nothing!
  • Children, if there is no surviving spouse or civil partner – the entire estate is split equally amongst the children
  • Grandchildren and great grandchildren – will inherit equal shares of what their parent or grandparent would have inherited from the estate of someone who dies intestate if,
    • their parent or grandparent dies before the person who died intestate or;
    • their parent was alive when the person who died intestate died, but died before they attained the age of 18.
  • Other Close Relatives: Parents, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews would then be next in line, if person who died intestate has none of the aforementioned relations alive
  • Others who may be able to claim (if there are no living relations from the list above) are grandparents, aunties and uncles, cousins, etc.
  • Guess who gets it all if a person who dies intestate has no surviving relations – The Crown!  It passes to the Crown as ownerless property – The TAXMAN, always waiting in line 😊

More importantly though, beyond distribution of your belongings, can you imagine how much easier it would be for your survivors to get on with implementing whatever your wishes are with regards being buried, if you have it spelled out in your will!  They wouldn’t while grieving the loss also have to try and figure out whether what they are doing is what you would have wanted!

So over the last couple of weeks, I have been researching what I need to do to get my will written and found that;

  • One could get a solicitor to write it, or
  • Write it on your own

The disadvantage of writing it oneself though, is that you could potentially write it in an unclear manner that leaves room for the will being disputed (or being deemed invalid – a will that isn’t valid means you die intestate!), which is unlikely to be the case if you paid a solicitor to write it for you.  On the other hand, a solicitor is able to advice on any Inheritance Tax implications.

I also found that Will writing is not a regulated market, so you need to be careful who you get to write your will.  As solicitors are however regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) getting one’s will written by one will afford some confidence, especially as a will is a legal document and they are legally trained.

In my research, I also found that there’s a free will service during the month of March and October in U.K. where solicitors will write or review a ‘simple’ will for free, for those aged 55 or above, in return for making a bequest to a charity in your will.

Things to note: you don’t have to wait for specific events or activities to happen or be completed (like I’ve been doing) before preparing your will, rather if there a significant change, just have a new will that supersedes any previous ones. 

I know that for Muslims, the Quran spells out how a person’s possession should be shared on their demise.  As a Muslim living in U.K., if you want your estate shared as indicated in the Quran, it is important to check with your Imam whether it is necessary that you also write a will that clearly spells your wish out (I believe that might be the case, otherwise you might be deemed to have died intestate).

If you are young, single and broke then you don’t need a will (yet), other than that you should make a will NOW.

No one is promised tomorrow and it is best to put one’s affairs in order, to ensure that your possessions are dispersed in the manner you want it and your beneficiaries have clarity over what you want done/they don’t end up squabbling and in court over what they think should be done (more so for us African’s where some uncle or aunty or other relative may decide that it is best to take the body to Africa to be buried – not at their cost though, but they’d try to make the decision)!

I am on the case with mine as I suddenly realise I have been lucky so far and need to get my house in order before my time comes! I suggest the same for all.

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