In a will a person can:
1. Provide for those one choses,
2. Protect one’s children,
3. Reduce one’s liability to inheritance tax, and
4. Reduce the chance of the estate being contested.
Don’t be tempted to download or purchase from a stationer’s a will template. There are too many possible pitfalls that could end up making the administration of an estate much more difficult and even more expensive. Use a solicitor.
Some readers may well say: “He would say that, wouldn’t he? After all he is a former solicitor.” And yes, as a former solicitor I would say it, but I’d be saying it from a position of experience. Some solicitors don’t even charge for making a will if it is to be kept in their safe; they will acknowledge that processing the will down the line is where they will earn a fee.
Otherwise, there are too many pitfalls. For instance a testator might want to leave something to a person he/she asks to witness the will. A beneficiary should not witness the will since a witness cannot benefit from a will he/she has witnessed. If a beneficiary witnesses the will or is married to a witness, the gift to him/her is void. The will is still valid but the witnessing beneficiary does not receive the gift.
Another thing to note is that when one marries, any existing will is automatically revoked (cancelled) and becomes no longer valid. If one does not make a new one, then when the person dies the law of intestacy decides how the assets of the deceased are divided. Usually, if there are no children the entire estate would go to the wife, husband or civil partner. If there are children then the law sets out what proportions would go to the spouse and children.
In Ireland, for a will to be valid, the Testator (person making the will) must:
1. Be over 18 years old or else be or have been married.
2. Be of a sound mind.
3. The will must be in writing.
4. The testator must sign the will in front of at least two witnesses.
5. The witnesses must sign the will in the testators presence and in the presence of one another
6. The testator must sign the will at the end of the document.
I was prompted to write about wills when a friend of mine came across a book recently, showed it to me, and I immediately knew I had to have one. It isn’t a novel or anything like that but is really a large notebook in which one enters all one’s wishes for what is to happen after death.
The book is calledand should be available in most good book/stationary shops. Subtitled ‘Important information about my belongings, business affairs and wishes’, it is published by Peter Pauper Press of White Plains, New York.
The publishers make it very plain that the book is not intended to be a legal document and does not replace a valid will.
This no-nonsense book is to be used to gather vital details about one’s contacts, legal matters, health, financial affairs, instructions, and more. The user will enter the information in this guided planner and keep it in a secure location. It is both valuable and practical and might be the best gift possible to give to your family and personal representatives.
The book covers in 17 tabbed sections: Personal Information, Medical Information, Key Contact Information, At the Time of My Passing, My Dependents, Important Documents, Financial Information, Commercial/Business Information, What Beneficiaries Can Expect, Personal Property, Insurance, My Pets, What to Pay, Close, and Cancel, Email and Social Media, Miscellaneous Information, My Personal Wishes and a Last Words Note.
Within the covers can be found, in an all-in-one-place, vital details about the many aspects of one’s life that could save a huge amount of time and effort for Executors or Administrators as well as family members. We are all aware of the tensions and even rows that can occur between family members after a loved one has passed. This book, if it is thoughtfully and comprehensively completed, may eliminate many difficulties and unpleasantness.
As well as recording personal and business facts, there is room too for historic family information that could be lost if not recorded somewhere. I was showing the book recently to one of my children so that she would know that it existed and where to find it and we came across a page where I had listed every place where I had worked during my life. She was fascinated by this but especially by the fact that she didn’t know about much of what I had recorded. It makes little difference, of course, to the real purpose of the book but it interested my daughter.
As well as a detailed list of illnesses over the years, including current conditions, I had included a list of current medications as well as any specialist doctors I may have been attending. These may not be much use after death but in the event of being taken seriously ill and unable to communicate they could be a life-saver.
Other professionals such as solicitors, accountants and tax advisors, as well as bank accounts and other savings, are also listed as well as details of insurances and assurances.
Several pages are devoted to listing friends and wider family contact details under the heading: ‘In the Event of my Death Please Contact the Following’. That would include details of where pension payments or other income may be coming from because they should all be stopped immediately to avoid having to make reimbursements later on.
Wishes for one’s funeral can be dealt with in great detail. I have a few rather unorthodox wishes that I have listed but when speaking with my daughter I also stressed to her that if my family wish to omit those wishes and opt for the more conventional I have no problem with that because it is my very strong belief that funerals have very little to do with the deceased but are really very much for those who are bereaved.
There is space to list details of dependents — I have none now — but should there be any then relevant details, including health and medical information, can be recorded. This might be very important if there were any disabled dependents.
The location of deeds, financial information — including savings and investments — and other important documentation is catered for too and even even where to locate private data about one’s online activities, with passwords and user-names, etc. In the event that there are regular payments being made by direct debit, then they can be listed too, with account details so that they can be cancelled right away.
There is a section on ‘Personal Property’ and this is where the book can be really helpful. One could, of course, deal with that in detail in a will but it is ideal for small bits and pieces that may not have much commercial value and might make a will a bit cumbersome. This section is ideal for saying where, maybe, a particular book or a painting or some item of furniture should go or some item of jewellery, workshop tools or other such matters. It is unlikely that all of one’s children would have, say, an interest in photography but in the event that one has then it is possible to suggest that that person may wish to get a camera and/or equipment.
There is even a page for recording one’s wishes for pets.
Perhaps most important of all, there is space to record the existence and location of a ‘living will’ or a ‘do-not-resuscitate’ wish.
It is worth repeating that the book does not replace a valid will. To my mind, the book should be used as a guide to avoid any disagreements or disappointments. It also helps to preserve family privacy because if the detailed wishes as set out in the book were to be included in a will — as they could be — it would eventually go on the public record, perhaps to sate the curiosity of those who regularly peruse the Sunday newspapers for that kind of information.
Contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org