Most people will have been affected by Coronavirus in some way during this pandemic. For some it’s been a very terrifying experience physically and for many more it’s been mentally and emotionally exhausting. Our daily lives and routines have been disrupted like never before including our schools, our work, our relationships and what is to become of our future?
There have been many studies in the past of the human being’s desire for certainty. The Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s famous ‘Hierarchy of Needs 5 stage model’ explained the psychological effects to our lives when our needs are not being met. This was further underlined by Tony Robbins the famous #1 New York Times best-selling author, life and business strategist, philanthropist and entrepreneur, with his ‘6 Human Needs’. Tony places certainty as the first and most important human need that must be met in our lives. It’s our need to feel in control and to know what’s coming next so we can feel secure. It’s the need for basic comfort, the need to avoid pain and stress, and also to create pleasure. Our need for certainty is a survival mechanism.
It should therefore come as no surprise that many millions of us have and continue to struggle with not knowing what our future holds.
I’m not for one minute suggesting that I know the answer to this but what I do know is one way in which we can give some certainty is to make a Will.
A Will puts you in control. One of the primary benefits of making a Will is to control how your estate is divided. Your estate is basically everything that you own (it’s not just property but also life insurance, vehicles, jewellery, investments, cash, savings, shares, business assets, agricultural assets, personal items and digital assets). You choose who will benefit from your estate and what they are entitled to. But it isn’t just about money. You also decide who will administer your affairs after your death, your funeral wishes and who will look after your children, dependents and any pets. A Will is also a key document to assist with estate planning, minimising inheritance tax liability and protecting assets through trusts. A Will can also exclude individuals that you don’t wish to benefit from your estate.
Unfortunately, even making a Will won’t always give the certainty that it should.
The common reasons for this tend to be:
1. The Will has not been correctly drafted. Sadly, drafting errors are not usually picked up until after the testator has died. This can often happen when the Will is written by someone that isn’t a professional or suitably qualified. As with any service you purchase always do your due diligence and make sure that whoever is writing your Will is qualified to do so, is a member of a professional body such as the Solicitors Regulation Authority, The Society of Will Writers, the Institute of Professional Will Writers or STEP. Also make sure the Will writer is insured to write your Will.
2. The Will is invalid. This can happen for a number of reasons such as the testator not having mental capacity when the Will was drafted or being coerced against their wishes to write it. This is a particular problem with online Wills because the only check is the person completing the online application form agreeing to the terms of business which will state they have the mental capacity to make a Will and aren’t being coerced against their wishes. This is clearly open to abuse.
3. The Will has not been correctly signed and witnessed (attested). A Will only becomes legally binding once it’s been attested correctly. Many Wills fail because they are not correctly attested.
4. Insufficient provision has been made for family dependents. Spouses and children are protected under something commonly referred to as ‘The 1975 Act’. If you have failed to make adequate provision for family dependents, then your Will could be challenged in court after you die, and the distribution of your estate altered.
5. The Will can’t be found. This is a common issue. The problem being that many Wills that are written simply can’t be found when the testator dies. This means that all the money, thought and effort taken to prepare your Will has come to nothing. Common reasons for this include the Executors being unable to find a Will that’s been stored at home, your Will has been lost, your Will has been destroyed post death by a disgruntled Beneficiary or the law firm, Will writer or bank that was holding your Will is no longer trading or the branch has been closed and your Will can’t be found. This is why we always recommend to our clients that their Wills are registered with The National Will Register. In this way any emergency service, funeral director, solicitor, Executor or probate practitioner can contact The National Will Register to find out if a Will exists and where it can be found. Before the existence of The National Will Register there was no National Will Register and it was extremely difficult to locate a Will. It’s a bit like setting up a business and spending thousands on a new website but unless Google knows it exists then nobody will ever get to see it! That is why we register all of our clients’ Wills with The National Will Register to give… well… Certainty!
So, in order to reduce the risks of any of the above happening then you should always seek to have your Will written by a legally qualified, insured professional.
This article was written by Ann-Marie Shine-Newton, Consultant Will Writer at Stanford Wills. You can contact Ann-Marie to discuss any points that have been raised in the article or for advice about making a Will by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website.