The word ‘Will’ in legal terms is a very small word with a very big meaning.
Does the thought of writing a Will frighten you? Do you think you are too old to make a Will? Or more to the point, too young? Are you one of many people who think that the minute you have made your Will, you are going to die? These are all very human reactions; however, it is well worth noting that in the words of Benjamin Franklin, “there are two things that are certain in life, death and taxes!”
By dying intestate (not having a Will), you are leaving your loved ones in a difficult situation as you may not have made your wishes clear, there could be confusion or arguments about what you would have wanted, and this can lead to family rifts which may never heal. Some family members may feel that you simply did not care enough to make a Will.
Thousands of people put off writing a Will each year, as they find it a confusing, daunting and emotive process, which brings their own mortality into focus and makes them realise they won’t always be here. Another major point to consider is that, in todays’ affluent world, many people do not understand the true value of their estates (homes, savings, life policies, pensions and other assets), which can result in them inadvertently leaving their loved ones with an Inheritance Tax problem following death. All these problems can easily be avoided by having a professionally drafted Will drawn up by TLB Planning Ltd.
Often people assume that Wills are the preserve of the older generation, however, sadly, many younger people die through sudden illness or accident, leaving young families in a very difficult situation. In time, younger bereaved spouses may re-marry. If the original couple had not planned for this scenario effectively, children from a first marriage can find themselves disinherited as Mum or Dad move on and re-marry in years to come – this is called ‘sideways disinheritance and is all too common. Prevent this happening to your children by having an Estate Protection Trust written into your Will, as should the worst happen, your children will still inherit your half of the property that you worked so hard to provide for them, whilst leaving your spouse free to continue their life when you are no longer here.
Older couples worry constantly about how they would pay for nursing home fees, should either of them need long term care in the future. At TLB Planning Ltd, our experienced Consultants can help you with both these scenarios by writing an Estate Protection Trust into your Will.
Most couples own their property jointly, as ‘beneficial joint tenants’. This means that the property belongs to you and your partner jointly. If one of you pass away, legally, your half of the property automatically passes to your spouse. Whilst being the traditional method used in many older Wills, this situation brings huge risks. These risks can be avoided by severing the tenancy of ownership and changing it to ‘Tenants in Common’, (where you own 50% of the property each). We then write your Will in such a way that on first death, the first half of the property is put into trust for your children (or nominated beneficiaries). This means that if the surviving spouse wishes to re-marry or needs long term nursing care in later life, the first half of the property is already protected, as it is held in trust. In most circumstances, a severance of tenancy needs to work hand in hand with a Right of Occupation.
If you own your own home and are not married, but living with a partner you love dearly, they will not inherit if you have no Will in place. You may have plans to marry and spend your life with someone; however if the unthinkable happened suddenly, any assets will pass directly to blood relations, with live-in partners and co-habitees missing out, leaving them potentially homeless. If you have a dependent relative, such as an elderly parent living with you, they too could be made homeless if you have not put adequate provision in place.
This is easily rectified by having a ‘Right of Occupation’ written into your Will. You can set the time limit for how long that person can stay in your home after your death – for life, several years, until they cohabit or remarry? It is up to you, but these things need to be discussed with an experienced Estate Planning Consultant who can ensure that your exact requests are met, and you are not inadvertently weakening your beneficiaries’ position, whilst keeping a roof over the head of your loved one.
Many families have members who may be struggling with alcohol, drugs or other dependent issues, such as gambling. If they suddenly inherited a large sum of money, it could be disastrous. Lots of parents have a disabled child who cannot manage their own finances, or a family member who is reliant solely on state benefits. If they were to inherit a lump sum, all benefits would be stopped until the money had run out. By using a Discretionary Trust (created on death) in your Will, these situations can be avoided. A Discretionary Trust is a flexible way of leaving money or other assets from your Estate, to vulnerable loved ones. On your death, the Trust is managed by two appointed Trustees of your choice, who decide how and when the beneficiaries can receive any inheritance. When setting up a Discretionary Trust, you will be asked to make a ‘Statement of Wishes’ to be given to your Trustees at the time of your death, outlining what you would like to happen and providing guidance when you have gone.
At TLB Planning Ltd, our experienced, knowledgeable and sympathetic Estate Planning Consultants will chat through your options in the comfort of your own home, helping you with the process of drawing up a robust Will that will prevent the scenarios above happening to your loved ones once you are no longer here to protect them.
Providing you store your Wills with us, we offer a free re-write service, taking away any concerns you have about changing circumstances within your family.
We advise that you review your Will at least once every five years, however if the person who witnessed your Will loses mental capacity or passes away, you need to update your Will as soon as possible. The reason being, your witness is confirming that you had full mental capacity at the time of signing your Will. If your Will was contested after your death, your witnesses would not be available to give a statement to the Probate Court and although it would be presumed that you did have full capacity, the Will is not as strong as if the witness could testify.
Over 24,000 children are bereaved of a parent each year and yet most parents of young families don’t have a Will in place. Amazing isn’t it? Your most precious asset and yet you don’t put plans in place to protect them. Many people assume that if something were to happen to both parents, either their children’s God-parents or Grandparents would be given full custody until the children reach 18 years old. This is not the case. If both parents were to pass away and there is no Will in place, the courts decide who will look after your children.
By putting off the Will making process, you are putting your children at risk of court battles, family disputes and Social Services taking them and placing them into Foster Care until a suitable family can be found for them. This means that in many circumstances, your children can be split up from their siblings, and although they may well end up being placed back with Grandparents or other family members, the whole process could take several years and cause untold anxiety and stress to all concerned in the meantime.
The way to avoid all of this, is to have a professionally drafted Will with a Guardianship clause written in, giving details of who would look after your children if you are no longer around to bring them up yourself, and equally importantly, please talk to your child about this. Talking to children about who would love and care for them if you weren’t around gives them a sense of security. If you were to die suddenly with no plans in place, your children would be anxious about whether their guardians really want them or not.
By appointing a guardian in your Will at an early stage, and allowing natural discussions about death and dying to develop between yourself and your children, should the worst happen, they know who would look after them and this in itself, will help alleviate some of the pain they will face without you by their sides. Don’t make it worse for them than you need to.
However, there is more to consider than just who would raise your children. How would your children’s guardians manage financially? They may well have several children of their own, and following a tragic circumstance, a couple more children arrive on their doorstep, suitcase in hand. Much as they would want to do the best for you and your children, their unexpected arrival could force your chosen guardians into severe financial difficulties, meaning they have to asset strip your children’s inheritance, just to be able to afford to bring them up.
For the cost of a coffee a week, TLB Planning can put a life policy in place, and by ensuring that a Guardianship Trust Fund is set up in the process, the costs of raising your children will be provided for and the rest of your estate can pass to your children intact.