If you haven’t made a will, you’re in good company — or should I say bad company, because some of the excuses are up there with “the dog ate my homework”.
According to some research done last year, more than half the adult population of the UK doesn’t have a will. Reasons why include: it will bring you bad luck, and everyone knows you are bound to die as soon as you so much as think about making one.
Then there’s the “I’m a busy person” routine. You just haven’t got round to it. Anyway, you’re too young and time is on your side.
Next up is the cost — legal work is always outrageously expensive, isn’t it? You don’t have much in the way of money and possessions to leave to anyone, anyway, so it’s not worth bothering with all that “last will and testament” nonsense.
After all, your family will get everything anyway if you don’t make a will, so making one really isn’t worth it.
Wrong, wrong and wrong again
Sadly, anyone coming up with these reasons for not having a will is very, very wrong.
You can’t argue with superstition, but common sense – not to mention medical statistics – will tell you that making sensible financial provision for your family is not among the top causes of premature demise.
If you’ve got time to watch the latest TV blockbuster, you’ve got time to create a will. Also, the cost of a simple will will almost certainly be less than what you spend on meals out in a month.
And if you need something a bit more complicated, because you own a portfolio of properties or have managed to acquire a quiverful of children, can you afford NOT to make a will?
It almost goes without saying that lawyers make more money from legal disputes over who gets what and battling the tax authorities than ever they do from writing wills.
Aunty May’s teapot
Even if all you’ve got to leave are your dad’s old cufflinks and Aunty May’s favourite teapot, you don’t want to be looking down from your cloud watching your bereaved relatives scrapping over them.
And if you leave a bob or two, you certainly don’t want the taxman taking more than his fair share.
If that doesn’t make you think, the new intestacy laws should. They changed last year – but still did nothing to help couples living together without the benefit of a marriage or civil partnership.
Your partner could end up with nothing after you are gone, and could even lose their home.
Nor should you rest on your laurels if you made a will many years ago, leaving everything to your children – and one in five people haven’t revisited their will for more than 10 years. They, too, could get nothing if you’ve remarried in the meantime, as marriage automatically revokes a will.
Take action now
Basically, anyone who hasn’t ever made a will – or had their existing will reviewed recently – should take action sooner rather than later.
Making a will is like getting the car serviced or clearing the gutters – one of life’s chores that no one wants to dwell on but that makes you feel so much better once it’s done.
And who knows, deciding who gets lumbered with Aunty May’s frightful teapot might just be a bit of fun.
Annie Shaw is an experienced personal finance journalist and money expert. During her career she has been the editor of the Sunday Telegraph’s property section, a staff money journalist for The Times and for several years was a financial ‘agony aunt’ for the Independent on Sunday and subsequently for the Daily Express. Annie helps consumers to make more of their money and is currently a freelance personal finance writer for a range of national newspapers. She is a frequent expert guest on personal finance issues for radio and television news. She blogs at: