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How are you ‘feline' today?

Wills aren’t just important for cat lovers, they’re crucial for all of us

IF you're a cat lover, you should be feeling good – especially if you're thinking about making a will.

Did you know that one of the wonderful things you can do with a will is provide care for your own, and other cats? We'll talk some more about that later. Wills aren't just important for cat lovers, they're crucial for all of us - particularly in the month that's in it.

November is ‘Will Aid' month, where selected solicitors around the country will write your will for free, and instead of paying their fee you can donate to Will Aid, which then passes the money on to their nine leading UK charities: Actionaid, Age UK, British Red Cross, Christian Aid, NSPCC, Save the Children, SCIAF, Sightsavers, and Trócaire.

This year's suggested donations are £95 for a basic single will, or £150 for basic mirror wills. Mirror wills are often used by couples to leave their share of the estate to the other, or to state their wishes if they were both to die in some tragic accident – stipulating who should benefit from their estate, and who should be guardians for the children, for instance. (More details at www.willaid.org.uk)

You can sort your will and, if you're quick about it, donate to those worthy charities instead of paying a fee!

All you need is to decide your wishes for your estate, and to be of sound mind. (I'm saying nothing about the second one...)

A will clearly sets down who should benefit from your money, and can avoid confusion, stress, and family disputes, when they're already dealing with the agony of bereavement.

Financial advice is an important part of making a will, but rather than focussing on detail and procedure, I'd rather show you some real-life disasters reported in the press by families dealing with the death of a loved one. In each, the wishes of the deceased, had they been clearly set down in a will, might have gone a long way to avoiding conflict.

Let's first remember that bereavement is a very stressful time. People don't know if they're coming or going, when they lose a parent. This is when old grudges and enmities resurface between stressed-out brothers and sisters, leading to some deeply hurtful squabbling. It's so common there's even a zippy name for it: ‘heir warfare'.

In one case, a family member had signing authority over mum's main bank account, and, egged on by their spouse, drained it and kept the cash. That family say they're still not speaking to this day.

In another case, two brothers inherited the house. The legal profession calls what ensued ‘economic disparity' - one brother was wealthy, the other was not. They fell out, as the first wanted to hold on to the family home, the other wanted a quick sale to release his cash. Nightmare. A will could have set out the wishes of their deceased mother and at least explained how she'd have wanted them to proceed, perhaps significantly defusing the situation.

Then there is ‘undue influence'. In an end-of-life care situation, one person invariably ends up as the main carer. Sometimes however, the carer coerces the dying person for personal gain. In one case, almost £11,000 was taken from a father's account in his final months. Even over the Christmas before he died, when he could neither eat nor sleep, he ‘spent' £3,800. His daughter, the main carer, had helped herself to the money. Another family sadly blown apart.

In one very traditional Irish situation, an eldest son inherited the family farm from the father and, when the mother died one year later, asked the brothers to move out. After much bitterness, one of the brothers ended up pinning him to the wall with a pitchfork at his throat – a situation that was a lot less funny than it sounds. He retained the land, but even a generation later, there is still deep resentment between his children and their cousins.

So not having a will can create confusion, pain and mayhem - but having one can state your wishes and make for clarity, unity and harmony.

Anyway, enough about these catty people! Let's get back to the real cats.

The Cats Protection charity (www.cats.org.uk) is currently offering to pay 100 per cent of the cost of simple or mirror wills for all you cat lovers, in the hope that you might include a voluntary bequest to the charity. A great way to sort your will, and help cats, at the same time!

Having read this, if you're ‘feline' that a will could make your wishes clear, and avoid family squabbles, this is the month to take the first step.

Our financial advice will get you started, and get you a will that'll leave you - and your family and your cat - feeling ... purr-fect!

:: Michael Kennedy and Shaun Doherty are independent financial advisers and pensions specialists, and can be contacted on 028 71886005 . Further information is available on the Facebook page 'Kennedy Independent Financial Advice Ltd' or the website www.mkennedyfinancial.com

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