We need to talk about wills.
While writing a will may not sound like the world’s most romantic gesture, lessening the administrative burden for those left behind is absolutely, definitely, unquestionably an act of love.
For the parents among you, it’s one of the most important things you can do to protect your children. You may be shocked to learn that, should you die without formally appointing a legal guardian, decisions about your children’s care are made by the courts and not by the people who love them most. If you want better guardians than austere Aunt Angela and feckless Uncle Freddie, you need to say so. Legally.
For couples not married or in a civil partnership, writing a will is particularly important – if you die intestate (without a will) your partner has no legal right to inherit.
Being coupled-up in the eyes of the law doesn’t get you off the hook, though. Intestacy has implications for all sorts of things you might not have considered. Did you know, for example, that if you die without a will, your spouse may not be entitled to all of your estate – or, depending on your circumstances, even very much of it?
Okay, we’ll stop with the nagging now. You know you need to write a will. But how do you start the conversation with your partner?
Us Brits are notoriously coy when it comes to talking about money. Broaching the subject of wills can feel awkward, especially if there are family tensions involved, so here are some tips for taking control, empowering yourself and getting the ball rolling:
Overcome errand paralysis
Making a will screams ‘errand paralysis’ – the inability to get around to completing mundane yet important tasks that don’t have an immediate impact on your life. Remember that making a will is a process and, as you’d do with any daunting task, break it down into a series of smaller steps. Kick things off with a casual comment like, “We really ought to think about making a will”. There. That’s the first step. Not so bad, was it?
You might worry that bringing up the topic with your partner might lead to arguments or hurt feelings. It’s true that making a will could mean discussing thorny topics like ex-spouses, step-children and family members with whom there has been a disagreement. Know that you might have to take some deep breaths and listen—really listen—to your partner’s point of view.
Give yourselves time to think
It’s important to get everything straight in your own head before talking things over. Try writing a rough draft (this doesn’t have to be in legalese) and annotate it with any issues that are worrying you or playing on your mind, from which daughter gets your favourite ring to who is landed with the hamster.
Book an appointment with your solicitor
Yes, you can get a DIY will writing pack from most high street stationers, but this is only suitable if your affairs are very simple (i.e you’re married/in a civil partnership and want to leave everything to your spouse, and to your children if your spouse dies before you). If you’re not married/in a civil partnership or for anything more complicated, it’s important to seek proper legal advice. The wording needs to be legally correct to ensure your wishes are carried out.
So put ‘book appointment with solicitor’ on your to-do list, and this time, just do it. Trust us, you'll feel so much better, and empowered, knowing it is sorted. Where there's a will, there's a way forward.
For more information on making a will, visit www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk or www.citizensadvice.org.uk. Also as March is Amnesty International's 'Make a Will Month' they are listing solicitors who will write or update your will for free: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/make-a-will-month.