In 2011 a BBC News Report identified that two thirds of people in the UK don’t currently have a will, despite nearly all of us having a clear idea of whom we want our property to pass to after our death. These figures might come as a surprise to those who have been proactive in organising this area of life and death, but the reality is that making a will is something many put off. There are numerous highly subjective reasons for this, among them the idea that death is a long way off, or a refusal to face up to the inevitable. However, there are some very good reasons why making a will at any age is a good idea:
‘Intestate’ was a term first coined by the Administration of Estates Act 1925. It applies to anyone who has died without making a will. When someone dies intestate the government basically decides what happens to his or her estate – if no one comes forward to claim the estate then it could be entirely absorbed by the government. If there are friends or loved ones that the deceased wanted to provide for, or unusual family structures, those left behind may never even have known they that could have had a claim on the estate.
The other great disadvantage to the deceased dying intestate is that inheritance tax can become due on the estate before it can be distributed. Where there is no will, the family and loved ones may have to find the money to pay the inheritance tax before the rest of the estate will be released to them to be distributed. Inheritance tax is a hefty sum (40% on estates worth more than £325,000 in 2012/13) and paying it can present a serious problem for those without the finance – often to the extent of money having to be drawn together from loans and/or credit cards.
Children are another good reason to make a will. The Administration of Estates Act 1925 was drawn up at a time when family units were relatively straightforward – it doesn’t reflect the sometimes complex arrangements that many families have in place today. Children who are not named in a will are not automatically entitled to any inheritance, unless the estate is worth more than £250,000 or there is no surviving spouse. The only real way to ensure that children inherit as intended is to record this in a will.
In fact, for those with dependents of any kind, making a will can be vitally important. As well as using a will to cover the subject of what property should go to whom, a will can contain instructions on how dependents should be dealt with after the deceased’s death. For example, using a will in which to name someone else as a guardian for a child will ensure that child is actually passed in that person’s custody – something that is particularly important for unmarried parents or single parent families.
Whilst most of us find it quite unnerving to start thinking about death, no matter how old or young we are, making a will can actually be extremely comforting. It is much easier to carry on living life when all the arrangements have been made to deal with the situations that can arise for those left behind after a death.