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Jumping that Final Hurdle

Graham Payne, Senior Partner and Head of Wills & Probate at Eric Robinson Solicitors, explains the importance of making a Will to help protect both your estate and your loved ones.

Imagine a long distance runner who has been preparing for the most highly prestigious race of his career. He looks after himself, watches what he eats, trains hard, works with his coach and the big day soon arrives.

He starts the race, is doing well and rather enjoying himself.  Lap after lap he is feeling great and his fans and supporters are cheering him on. Then, in the final circuit, he slows down, stops and sits down metres away from the finish line for no apparent reason.  How do all the people involved in his life feel? Confused? Angry? Betrayed?

Now if we take that race to represent our everyday lives, I often meet the relatives of people who have passed away with very similar emotions to the supporters of that long distance runner. Why?  Well, an individual may have worked hard, looked after his/her family, been supported in old age, but then, having failed to make a Will, caused confusion, devastation and emotional carnage amongst loved ones after they died.

In recent research by Standard Life, it was discovered that two thirds of 35 to 44 year olds, two fifths of 45 to 54 years olds and over a fifth of all those over 65 years old had not made a Will. Over half of those people gave the reason for not having done so as simply ‘not having got around to doing it yet.’

This is really worrying. Maybe some people think the cost of making a Will is a barrier, but the legal fees involved in sorting out estates when someone dies ‘intestate’ can be more expensive for the family  than the Inheritance Tax bill!

Dying without having a Will in place can put an enormous stress on loved ones. When you die intestate the law sets out the rules as to who can deal with a person’s estate and what is to happen to the property. Regardless of the deceased’s wishes, a spouse or registered civil partner will not automatically inherit an estate - some will go to relatives. There is also no provision for unmarried partners, even if they have been cohabiting.

A Will needs to be accurate, unambiguous and comprehensive. It also needs to be updated if there are changes in circumstance (such as divorce, children or finances). Without it, you cannot decide how much money each of your family members gets, state who will become guardians of your children, leave possessions to friends or family or anything to charity.

People spend their lives tying to provide the best they can for their loved ones, but so many seem to be falling at that final hurdle by not protecting their futures when they are no longer here. Like the long distance runner, for all the people who have helped, supported or relied upon you, you owe it to them to finish that race properly.

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