In my line of work I am required to help individuals write their wills, but unfortunately for some it is often too late. This is often the result of several common misconceptions which mean that people delay, or even never get around to writing their Will.
In order to address these misconceptions, I have put together a list of 5 things that I feel everyone should know about writing a Will. This article will address some of the general issues many people face, highlighting some of the pitfalls out there. However, it is important to note that the circumstances may differed for each individual based so seeking the advice of a specialist is recommended.
“Everything will go to my spouse”
“Everything will go to my children”
Not writing a will and assuming it will go to your spouse or children if you are single or already widowed is that you are leaving the succession of your estate to devolve in accordance with the provisions of the succession (Scotland) Act 1964.
Simply put this means that other family members are entitled to part of your estate, no matter your current relationship with them. This includes relations you haven’t seen in many years or are estranged from.
In this case, not writing a will is a bad idea if your close loved one's inheritance is reduced as a result.
With a Will, you can better control who will benefit from the estate you leave behind. Without one it is possible that someone within the family whose life would be negatively impacted – because of certain life choices, medical or health issues - by the inheritance would be left some of your estate.
“I don’t have anything to leave behind”
We often only consider the ‘money in the bank’ as our assets and forget about things such as insurance policies which will pay out to our estate on in the event of our deaths.
Not only this, but with people living in their home for decades, they often do not realise the value their once ex-council home may be worth now. Employment benefits, for those who are still working, such as death in service can also equate to considerable sums.
It is also important to note within a will, the items that you own which carry little monetary value but are deeply sentimental, ensuring that your final wishes are made clear.
“I'm too young to make a Will”
I fully understand those clients who want to focus on living and enjoying life, particularly those of the younger generation. However, sometimes those in their 20s and 30s are at even more risk than those who are older.
Many with young children, make the mistake of assuming our children would go into the care of one set of grandparents or another close relative in the event of their death. While this might ultimately be the case in the long term, Social Services must carry out their due diligence, meaning that this process could take time and become upsetting for all family members involved. Ensuring your Will contains a guardianship clause, especially while children are young, will make this already difficult time easier for your children.
Even without children, a Will is essential for unmarried couples to ensure your surviving partner gains access to assets to which they are entitled. Gaining access to these funds is particularly important when there could potentially be only one income coming into the home.
“My family will do the right thing.”
Several clients believe that by making a will that they are precipitating a dispute within their family after death.
However, often its completely the opposite and because the law of intestacy applies. This means that your estate must be shared out in accordance to certain rules and your family would have legal rights. Your wishes then can no longer be taken into account.
“Having a Power of Attorney and a Will is the same thing”
Often people are confused between an executor of a Will and an attorney named in a Power of Attorney. A Power of Attorney is a separate document which authorises a designated individual to act on your behalf should you be unable to while you are still alive.
A Will doesn’t empower one of your family members to support you with your private affairs if you lose capacity. It will only look after you and your estate in event of your death.
If you have any more concerns about making a Will, why not reach out to one of our team for a free, no obligations discussion.