Richard Pollock, Partner in Coodes Solicitors’ Wills, Probate and Trusts team, says that people can put off making a Will for surprising reasons.
We all know that we should do it, but more than half of us put it off. According to recent statistics, from insurance company Royal London, 54 percent of UK adults and 60 percent of parents have not made a Will.
The reasons why people do not make a Will are complex and wide-ranging. However, a number of my clients tell me they have put off dealing with their Will because of difficult or sensitive family situations that they do not want to face. Some people fear that their situation is so complicated and unusual that there is no way of dealing with it. Rest assured, you are not alone – it is highly likely that an experienced solicitor will not only have encountered similar scenarios countless times, but will also be able to recommend the best ways of addressing your situation through sensible estate planning.
A common concern among many people is that their surviving spouse or civil partner will remarry or meet someone else and disinherit the children. Many fear that the new partner will end up with all of the assets. Others worry that the survivor will fall out with the children who will then end up with nothing.
One tried and tested approach to such concerns is an appropriate Will to include life interest arrangements in favour of the survivor of the couple, preserving the capital for chosen ultimate beneficiaries.
Tensions between in-laws are not unusual. A common scenario is for a parent to believe their son or daughter is too heavily influenced by his or her spouse or partner. This can create worries that a non-blood relation may control the way an adult child’s inheritance is spent.
I often hear clients telling me that their son or daughter does not have a “good business head” or cannot manage their finances. There is a genuine fear among many people that their hard-earned money will be wasted by their adult child, through poor financial skills, vulnerability or, increasingly, addiction issues. This not only creates worry about how their inheritance is spent, but it can prevent many people from seeking professional advice because discussing a son or daughter’s problems can be embarrassing and difficult.
With an estimated 42 percent of marriages now ending in divorce, it is understandable that a common concern is that one or more of your adult children will separate in the future. Many simply cannot face making a Will because of the prospect of half of their son or daughter’s inheritance going to their former spouse or civil partner.
Under each of these scenarios, sensible and prudent provisions can be included in the Will to try to protect both the adult child in question and the estate, such as a partially or wholly discretionary Will or the inclusion of, say, protective life interest provisions.
When an inheritance involves a business or farm, this brings another set of complex concerns. A common worry is that the family member who inherits the business, will sell up or cease trading so gaining a windfall. This could be detrimental to other members of the family who may work in the business or rely on it for an income stream.
Again, these issues can be addressed by an appropriate Will, often tied in with appropriate provisions in the company’s constitution or partnership agreement.
Speaking to family members and to a solicitor about these issues can be a daunting prospect. However, any solicitor worth his or her salt will be sympathetic and professional and is unlikely to be fazed by your concerns, having dealt with similar situations many times.
If you are dealing with a difficult family situation, this is in fact a very good reason for seeking professional estate planning advice. Having an appropriate Will in place is one way of taking control and ensuring your inheritance plans reflect your situation and wishes.