The death of a friend or family member is a stressful time for all involved. But, for those left behind, a great deal of heartache can be avoided if the deceased has made a will . Making a will is not something we’re very good at doing in the UK. It’s all part of a wider term, “estate planning”, which refers to all arrangements to do with disposal of an estate and associated matters, such as organ donations and funeral arrangements. Over in the US – where they’rea bit better at dealing with this stuff – “estate planning” is a commonly-used phrase and I think we need to think more about it over here.
At the core of estate planning is a valid will. Drawing up a will is the best way to ensure your death does not spark disagreements between family and friends. Even if you’re married or in a civil partnership, if you don’t have a will, your belongings will be shared according to strict legal rules of “intestacy”. As a result, there’s a danger that your assets won’t go to those you were closest to – something to ponder on, if you’d like to leave something valuable to a close friend, or a member of your extended family.
The position is even worse if don’t have a will, and you never tied the knot. Potentially, your surviving partner may not be entitled to any of your assets – even a jointly-owned house of bank account. Let’s be blunt: the term “common law” husband or wife has no legal basis, despite the – completely wrong – perception that it exists.
Thankfully, drawing up a will is relatively straightforward – you can do so online with Rocket Lawyer. Once you’ve draw up your will, there are strict rules governing how it should be witnessed and signed, to ensure it’s valid. You’ll also need to appoint “executors” – the people who will carry out your wishes after you’re gone.
None of these steps is complex. But, should you need help at any stage, our On Call service can put Rocket Law members in contact with specialist local lawyers, for a free local consultation.
Finally, it’s important to keep your will up-to-date, especially if your circumstances change. There’s no point having a will which leaves your belongings to family members who have already died, an ex-partner, or friends you’ve fallen out with, harsh as that might sound. Having an out-of-date will is arguably even more problematic as having no will at all – it sends out mixed signals about your intentions and, potentially, can invite disgruntled parties to sue.
So, perhaps this is how to look at it: preparing a will is a selfless act . Once you’ve dealt with this issue, you can take comfort in the fact that you’ve done everything you can to ensure your passing is as dignified as possible. In other words, that you can rest in peace.