Now's the time to make a will - and benefit charity too
On TV these days we are bombarded with ads for insurance policies sold as ‘Over 50' plans, or specifically designed to cover our funeral costs. This insurance aims to help our family when we go.
However, no-one is talking about the most important way to help our family at that difficult time: we should also plan ahead to make our will, and this week is the best week of the year to do that. Let me explain why.
If you are one of the 50 per cent of adults in the UK who have put off writing your will, November is the time to do so, because it's ‘Will Aid' month. If you act this week, you can book an appointment with a participating Will Aid solicitor to have your will professionally drawn up – and benefit charity at the same time!
With Will Aid, participating solicitors waive their fee for writing you a basic will, and instead you are invited to make a donation to charity. It only runs during November, however, so if you'd like to sort your will and benefit Will Aid's nine chosen charities, you'd need to get on the ball right away.
The charities that benefit are Trocaire, ActionAid, Age UK, British Red Cross, Christian Aid, NSPCC, Save the Children, SCIAF, and Sightsavers. The suggested voluntary donation to these fine charities this year is £100 for a single will, and £180 for a pair of mirror wills for you and your spouse. You can find your local Will Aid solicitor on the Will Aid website.
A will, of course, is intended to allow you to express how your estate should be divided up when you die. You can appoint a trusted person, your ‘executor', to ensure that the will is carried out to the letter.
If you do not have a will, or have one but people aren't aware or can't find it, then you die ‘intestate' and your goods and chattels are passed on according to the rules of intestacy. This means your exact wishes may not be reflected, and some of your estate could pass to relatives you would not have included.
But a will does much more than just help administer your money, property and assets.
You can leave items of sentimental value, such as jewellery, to a particular person, rather than treating them as part of your personal possessions. Thus a will can prevent family bickering by making a clear statement of where you want particular assets to go.
You can also use your will to appoint guardians for your children under 18, in case you pass away before they reach adulthood.
You can use your will to leave part of your wealth to a charitable organisation, maybe you've seen how a number of cancer charities and also animal charities are now actively seeking such donations.
Will-writing is not simple. It is one of those financial tasks in life where it's worthwhile gathering up the best advice available, both in terms of the preliminary financial planning, and the formal completion of the document.
There are also certain situations where a will can really cut through a complex thicket of red tape, and defuse complex legal situations that might otherwise have taken months, even years to settle.
Suppose you were married twice, for example. Did you know that, when you remarried, any will you made before then is automatically null and void?
This is important if you want your partners and children from both marriages to benefit from your will, and so any existing will may need modified to reflect your changed circumstances.
Professional advice is also crucial if there are disputes within your family. Many's a man or woman's will has helped to navigate and resolve the complex and acrimonious situations that can arise there.
It is also best to take professional advice if your family set-up or financial assets are complicated – if you own a house outside the UK, for instance.
If you've been thinking about a will in any case, then this is the week to book in with a Will Aid solicitor, and make arrangements with the added ‘feelgood factor' of benefiting some of the world's best-loved charities!
:: Michael Kennedy and Shaun Doherty are independent financial advisers and pensions specialists, and can be contacted on 02871886005. Further information on Facebook at “Kennedy Independent Financial Advice Ltd” or at www.mkennedyfinancial.com