If you’ve ever seen ‘Heir Hunters’ (BBC), you’ve probably been shocked at how much money goes unclaimed by relatives of someone who’s passed away intestate – not having a Will. In some cases, hundreds of thousands of pounds finds its way to the Government, missing the chance to change the lives of loved ones.
When comedian Rik Mayall died in 2016, he did so intestate. His untimely death hit the news not just for his loss, but because of the terrible financial loss to his family, too. It posed a real problem for his wife and children as the tax bill rose to thousands, damaging the family estate irreparably.
Had his wife had his Will to rely upon, she could have added his ‘nil rate band’ to her own and combine their £650 000 couple’s allowance, and she wouldn’t have had to pay tax on his death.
If you don’t have a Will yet, here’s something to bear in mind: if you have assets over £325 000, your family Will lose 40% of it under British tax law. All that, during a time when they’re grieving and getting through the worst loss imaginable.
I’m afraid that that’s not all …
If you die without a Will, you can’t be sure that you’ll have the funeral you want. If there’s a particular place you want your ashes scattered, or if you want to be buried near your family, only your stipulating so in your Will can ensure that that Will happen. It’s not a battle your family can win, and it’s not really one you’d want them to have to fight. Moreover, your precious things (Grandma’s engagement ring, Great Granddad’s medals, even Dad’s rusty toolbox) may end up going to the wrong person and leave the family’s ownership altogether.
Making or updating a Will is easily overlooked when you’re fit and healthy, young and enjoying life with your family and a happy career. “Make hay while the sun shines” is a perfectly noble adage to live by, but we can’t always forecast bad weather. My advice? Get the paperwork sorted out first and then enjoy the sunshine.
It’s such a small thing – just one conversation – that can prevent all of that added misery. Just an hour out of one day to talk to a Will writer about what happens to your loved ones when you’re gone.
Yes – what happens to your loved ones. Sorting out your Will is more a case of looking after them than your material assets. Half of the British adult population does not have an up-to-date Will. That’s an awful lot of potential financial loss on the cards, not to mention disappointment and stress for all those left behind.
Ideally, you should update your Will once every two years; that way, you can relax and have peace of mind.