When discussing estate planning with clients, in particular making their Wills, people often decide to put off making any decisions and say that they know they need to get round to it but they’ll deal with it later. A few of them will come back and address their Wills a few months later, but a large number never do. It is for this reason that the percentage of people dying intestate (without a legally binding Will) in the UK is currently between 60-70%!
Below are two thought-provoking case studies which highlight why it is so important to actually get round to making (and signing!) your Will.
1. Many people think that you only have to think about making a Will as you get older.They would be well advised to consider the case of 35 year old John Lockwood* who died unexpectedly in a car crash. He did not leave a Will. As he was not married and had no children, his entire estate was to be divided between his parents in accordance with the Rules of Intestacy.
John’s father had divorced his mother when he was very young and had since played no part in his upbringing. However, it was John’s mother’s responsibility to trace his father and when they did find him, he accepted his full entitlement of 1/2 the estate.
John’s mother and siblings had to sell his house and all his belongings and then hand over half of the proceeds to his father, who had not even seen him for 20 years.
Had John made a Will, he could have chosen to leave everything to his mother or brother, rather than to his estranged father.
2. Another client of ours, Henry Sommers*, appointed us to extract the Grant of Probate in his mother’s estate. She had left around £20,000 as well as a house, which all passed under her Will to Henry.
After we had completed the probate application for Henry, we asked him whether he wished to arrange an appointment to make his own Will, in light of the substantial inheritance he had received. Whilst he recognised that this would be necessary at some point, he advised us that he first wished to tie up his mother’s estate and that he then planned to propose to his partner of 10 years, Barbara.
Three months later, we received a call from Barbara in floods of tears to tell us that Henry had died suddenly at 52. At the time he died, he had not made a Will, nor had he married Barbara.
This left his long-term partner in a terrible situation, she had no entitlement to his estate and faced homelessness as she was living in Henry’s late mother’s house. We had to advise her that it was his closest relatives, cousins in Australia, that would be responsible for applying for probate as well as being entitled to the estate.
The only chance Barbara had of recovering anything from the estate was to make a claim, once probate had been granted, as a dependent of the deceased.
*All names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved