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With todays ‘modern’ lifestyle, the increase in divorce rates, remarriage and cohabitation, together with families living further apart leading to more complicated family structures, means the need to make a Will has never been greater.
However, more complex relationships can often mean that relatives and dependants are left feeling disappointed with what they inherit. A typical example of this is inter-generational lending, perhaps a parent loaning money to one of the children to enable them to get on the property ladder now becoming commonplace. This can lead to disagreement on the death of that parent as to how the other children or step children are treated.
It’s my money and so it’s my decision who gets what!
When we decide who we want to benefit after we pass away, we naturally think of those closest to us and who we have an active relationship with. In English Law, the basic principle is that of ‘testamentary freedom’ which means that people are able to leave their property to whomever they choose in their Will regardless of family connections.
Surely, all I need to do is write a Will that reflects my choices?
Ideally yes, however with the increased complexity of modern family structures, more people having a sizeable estate to pass on can mean that it feels there is something worth fighting for, particularly at a time when emotions are running high. As a direct result of this, the legal industry is seeing a growing number of cases where people are seeking legal remedy from being left out of a Will entirely, or receiving less than they expected as a deliberate act on the part of the deceased.
A growing ‘compensation culture’ and people becoming more aware of their legal rights from stories and articles in the media and the ability to bring a claim if there is something they see as unfair or amiss, means more of an incentive and appetite to challenge a Will. The number of inheritance disputes reaching the High Court each year has soared to a record high, a trend that lawyers put down to the intricacies of modern family life and rising property prices.
It’s all about the “WHY?”
Writing a Will can be tricky but trying to understand a loved one’s Will after their death can be agonising for some and not being able to understand the reason “WHY” a decision was made can lead to the Will being contested.
People can be surprised and hurt by the contents of a Will. The problem is that a Will only details “WHAT” you want to happen to your property after you have gone, but does not go into the reasons “WHY” you want your assets to be disposed of in this way. Obviously, you will not be there in person to explain or defend your decisions which could mean your voice would go unheard against that of the person contesting your Will.
At the time of drafting your Will, you may be confident that a claim would not be made however it is worth remembering that it is the situation at the time of death that is important and not the situation today.
So, what can be done?
Your wishes and reasoning for the terms of your Will are relevant and need to be given suitable weight. It’s clear that it’s of equal importance to both accurately record all events during the instruction taking process and retain these along with the Will, in order to be able to fully respond to any potential future claims and so protect your wishes.
Many companies rely on simply making notes when taking a client’s Will Instructions and store these with the Will file in case of need at a later date. Unfortunately though, these notes may be insufficient, go missing, or their meaning lost in translation with the passing of time. In direct contrast to this, we offer both
Will Clarity & Execution statements which are totally unique to the legal industry.
It’s all about the “WHY?”
A Will Clarity statement is something that every Will writing company or Solicitors firm should be offering their clients when drafting their Will. Not only does it explain the WHY behind your wishes but it also includes the Where, the When, the How and the Who.
In simple terms, it is a statement written in plain English, setting out your wishes for the distribution of your estate on death but more importantly, the reasoning behind your decisions and the surrounding circumstances. This is automatically compiled with the information provided throughout the entire instruction taking process, ensuring that nothing is missed. The Will Clarity statement is then read, agreed, signed and stored with the Will for safekeeping.