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14 June 2013

For your family’s sake - don’t wait to make a will

Buckinghamshire legal expert Craig Williams is warning about the importance of writing a will, after a survey revealed that nearly half of Britons have not yet done so.

According to recent research, 56% of those who haven’t made a will said they ‘just hadn’t got round to it’, while 28% were worried about the cost and the complexity, or concerned about getting a lawyer involved.

Craig, a partner who specialises in contested wills, trusts and probate at B P Collins LLP in Gerrards Cross, says today’s increasingly complicated family structures make writing a will more important than ever before.

“There are many reasons for making a will, not least that most people want to make sure their estate passes to their nearest and dearest when the time comes,” he said.

“Failing to do so is the quickest way to a dispute and we’re seeing many more litigation cases where an individual’s failure to leave clear instructions is causing family heartache for all concerned.”

Official statistics show that in 2011, 30% of marriages were to couples where at least one of the parties had been divorced or widowed previously. Over the same period, as more couples choose to co-habit, nearly half (47.2%) of all UK babies were born outside marriage or civil partnership compared with 40% in 2001.

“What many couples don’t realise is that if you live together without formalising your relationship through marriage or a civil partnership and you die intestate, your estate could go to other relatives rather than a bereaved partner,” continued Craig.

“And, if no relatives can be found at all, then the Treasury receives all the money – which adds up to millions of pounds a year for the Government.

“Not only that, but given the rising number of second and third marriages and the likelihood of different children from different relationships, it’s imperative that families take steps to formalise their will arrangements and ensure everyone is properly taken care of.”

Choosing a solicitor who is a will writing expert is essential. Craig points out that many legal disputes centre around poorly written wills. For example, he says if an individual’s will simply refers to leaving an estate to his children – without being specific about who those children are – then it leaves open the possibility of a claim from other, hitherto unknown children.

“We are aware of cases where, after someone has died, another child who is perhaps the result of a secret relationship has come forward to make a claim on the estate,” he said. “Taking expert advice and making sure you are clear about who you wish to inherit, can avoid that situation.”

The second (or third) marriage scenario can also create friction between the different parties when it comes to inheriting. While older children from a first marriage may expect to benefit when a parent dies, very often there will be a second spouse who is allowed to remain in the marital home for her lifetime.

“We regularly negotiate between parties in those typical circumstances,” said Craig. “A widow may well have been left the property, but that is of little use if she doesn’t have a sufficient income to be able to stay there. Through negotiation, we can often find a way through which enables both parties to benefit, but it would have been a great deal easier, and cheaper, if the arrangements had been talked through with a will writing expert in the first place.”

Craig says making a well-written and thought out will is the only way to ensure your wishes will be carried out to your instructions. To speak to him in more detail, please call 01753 279037 or email craig.williams@bpcollins.co.uk.

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