Am I too Young to Write a Last Will and Testament?
Over 60% of adults don’t have a Will, and this is across all of the countries that we support; the US, UK and Canada. For Expats, this number is almost certainly going to be higher, because the process is that much more complicated.
This means one out of two adults are woefully underprepared for their own death! On a daily basis not many of us like to think about our inevitable demise, it’s morbid and something that most of us don’t want to think about. Like going to the dentist or sitting an exam, there are some uncomfortable scenarios that we put off for as long as possible. Writing a Last Will and Testament should not be one of them.
However, there comes a time when we need to face the cold hard reality that we won’t live forever and you need to write a last will and testament. Granted, writing a Last Will and Testament isn’t the most fun you can have, and when you’re young there are a million and one exciting things you would rather do but it’s really not such a long and laborious process as you might think. To help you see the benefits of having a Will we have outlined the reasons why you’re (almost) never too young to write one.
The Young Ones
In 2014 Rik Mayall, a star from the popular ‘The Young Ones’ TV series passed away unexpectedly without leaving a Will. This resulted in extra fees and expenses for his surviving family, never mind the added turmoil of not knowing how he would have liked his estate to be shared.
But this happens all the time. If you took just musicians, you could form a supergroup of Prince, Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse, Billy Holliday, Bob Marley, Barry White…..the list goes on.
It is examples like this that remind us that death won’t wait for us to have our affairs in order. Death also doesn’t care if you’re 21 or a ripe old 98 and that means you should be prepared. If you’re under 18, don’t worry about a Will just yet but once you are 18 or over, it is your responsibility to outline how you would like your assets to be distributed after death or that privilege will be taken from you.
In England and Wales, if you die without a Will but you are married or in a civil partnership (without children), everything goes to your spouse or partner. If you do have children, the division of assets becomes more complicated and it depends on if property was jointly held or not. For couples that simply live together, there is no entitlement under the current UK intestacy rules and to pursue a claim could involve costly legal action. If there are no surviving blood relatives at all, the whole estate goes to the Treasury.
We have outlined intestate distribution in the following infographic.
But I’m not worth anything
Traditionally Wills were both expensive and inconvenient to prepare. The process involved making an appointment with a solicitor, which would usually have to be co-ordinated with a spouse. Knowing that a simple change in your personal or financial circumstances would render the document out of date.
As a result, people would write a last will and testament as a once-in-a-lifetime activity. Rather than a preparing a document that is written and updated throughout your life.
The thing is, you have absolutely no idea how much your estate will be worth when you die. The chances are you will not die today even if you write a Will. If you did die today, it may be as a result of an accident, somebody was negligent and is ordered to pay compensation to your estate. Your estate can easily be worth much more after you have died than it ever was when you were alive.
Wills are not just for the rich
You don’t only write a last will and testament if you are rich, as it simply declares your wishes and provides instructions for your family. Even if you don’t have many assets to bequest, a Will can outline the guardians for your children; set out health care wishes, and even disinherit people. Therefore, even if you’re fairly young and healthy, you may want to consider putting together a Will if:
- you own property or have savings, stocks and bonds;
- you have children, and
- You are joining the military or other occupation where your life is at risk.
As we have stated above, if you don’t provide instructions for your assets in the form of a Will, the government will dispose of it following UK intestacy rules.
Protecting your loved ones
The UK laws on intestacy do not take into account your individual circumstances and it doesn’t know or care for any unresolved family disputes. Therefore, if you do not set out your intentions your estate could fall into the wrong hands. This could have a terrible result for your loved ones as distant relatives, ex-partners and uninvolved parents could be the ones to legally gain from your death. Would you not prefer to be the person that determines where your hard-earned money, cherished pets and beloved children go?
Another consequence of not having a Will is that it virtually guarantees that your surviving family will face more costs and stress. As Rik Mayall’s death demonstrated, your estate will incur extra fees and delays if you choose not to write a last will and testament. Your family will have to watch as the estate gets distributed by the government which could result in arguments and expensive legal battles. These added burdens can all be avoided by simply having a Will which will ensure your final wishes and give your family peace of mind.
The number one reason that people don’t write a last will and testament is because they don’t want to pay the legal fees. It can be hard to justify the cost of a Will when you don’t come home with a tangible product or see the benefit for yourself. But this is financial planning for your loved ones and the minimal cost involved is nothing compared to the reassurance you will feel knowing that your assets and your loved ones are protected.
Of course, if you are writing a Will to cover assets in another country, making an appointment with a solicitor is enough of a barrier to make the whole process impossible.
The online Will option
Fortunately we live in an age where there are online options for writing a Will.This means that using a service like the one at www.expatlegalwills.com you can prepare a Will to cover your assets in the UK, US or Canada, whilst sitting with a laptop or tablet anywhere in the World. The whole process takes about 20 minutes, and you can update your document at any time when your circumstances change. The cost? $34.95US, $39.95 CAD or £24.95.
You simply step through the service online, then download and print your Will. Sign this in the presence of two adult witnesses who are not beneficiaries in your Will, and you have created a legal Last Will and Testament. It really is that simple.
From a long and peaceful retirement to an unexpected car crash, no one knows what is around the corner, so don’t put of making a wise decision today because you would rather spend the money on something which will not help your family in the long run. Having a Will in place is the best use of both your time and money. No matter what age you are, we all have treasured possessions and assets that we want to see in the hands of our loved ones – make sure that happens with a Will!
President and founder of the LegalWills group including USLegalWills.com, LegalWills.ca, LegalWills.co.uk and ExpatLegalWills.com.
He has over 20 years of experience helping people to write their Will and other estate planning documents. He has been interviewed by many of the major news media outlets and has contributed to articles in most leading publications. He has also contributed to a number of financial planning books.
Throughout his career, Tim has written extensively on the subject of Will writing and estate planning.
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