Rogers & Norton News

The importance of having a Will in place

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

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Rogers & Norton have recently undertaken a survey which highlighted some interesting facts – of the people we spoke to roughly one third had made a Will, another third said that theirs needed reviewing and the remainder had no Will at all.

The untimely deaths earlier this year of the music legends Prince and David Bowie made headline news across the world and caused great sadness to their many fans. 

It came to light that Prince may have died without a Will in place. He is survived by his sister and five step-siblings, with an estimated estate by Forbes to range from $300 to $500 million. Without a Will in place, this is likely to be an enormously complicated and problematic estate to administer, with the potential for a drawn-out and expensive family battle. Prince’s death is a sobering reminder of the crucial importance of having your affairs in order.

By contrast it also emerged that David Bowie, who died suddenly in January this year, left a Will clearly dividing his estate between his wife and two children, with specific gifts to close friends, his long-standing assistant and to his nanny. These famous examples illustrate the importance of creating a Will and managing your estate prior to your death, particularly here where Bowie had a child from a previous marriage.

Given the potentially devastating effects of dying intestate, we highlight the main reasons why you should think about making a Will:

  • Without a Will, your estate will be shared out in a pre-determined way defined by the law of intestacy. By making a Will it ensures that when you die your estate is distributed according to your wishes and to the people you have chosen to inherit.
  • The whole process is likely to be a lot less time-consuming, difficult and stressful for your loved ones, at a time which can be very distressing and emotional.
  • You can appoint legal guardians to look after your children and to help them manage their financial affairs until they reach the age of 18.
  • You can choose the executors who will carry out your wishes after death – this can be a close family member or friend, or a professional such as a solicitor.
  • You can include charitable donations and legacies (for example, of jewellery or cash) to whomever you wish.
  • A Will can include your funeral wishes.

 

If you are thinking about having a Will put in place, you also need to ensure that it is made validly – otherwise you risk your estate being treated as if you had died intestate. Oxo mum, Lynda Bellingham, died in 2014 seemingly having made a Will. However, due to concern over the medication she was on at the time of signing the Will, its validity is now being challenged.

For a Will to be deemed valid, you need to have the mental capacity to enter into the Will and understand its effect. If needed, mental capacity can be proved by obtaining a certificate of mental capacity when signing.

Time is of the essence when it comes to organising your estate for the future, and should you be struck unexpectedly with a mental illness, as sadly does happen, the validity of the Will may be questioned. This can be seen with Muhammad Ali, the boxing icon died leaving nine children from four different marriages. If a Will does emerge, timing will be of vital importance as disgruntled children may seek to challenge the validity of the Will owing to his mental state in later years, when he suffered from Parkinson’s disease.

All this shows that failing to have your affairs in order can leave chaos for your nearest and dearest to deal with, causing unnecessary grief at a very difficult time. With a valid Will in place you are assured that your estate will only go to the people and causes you care about. Here at Rogers & Norton, we are being instructed on more and more contentious probate matters which often arise as a result of a deceased’s affairs not being in order, with families more likely to argue over who should inherit.

If you would like more information on making a Will and estate planning, or you need assistance administering someone’s estate, please do not hesitate to contact our Private Client team in Norwich on 01603 666001 or in Attleborough on 01953 453774.