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Wills! What are they good for?

Damian Lines, TEP, Partner and Head of our Wills, Trusts and Probate department writes:

“I see a lot of people who come to my office and ask about ‘Bloodline Wills’, ‘Sideways Inheritance’, ‘Family Protection Wills’ and all sorts of other fancily-named arrangements.  What are they? What do these terms mean?

Let us start with the basics.  A Will is a document which comes into effect on death, and which defines where your money and property will go.  In their simplest form, they are nothing more.

What can be complicated are people’s circumstances – second marriages, children from previous relationships, vulnerable beneficiaries, a lack of mental capacity etc.  No two families will have exactly the same situation.

So why, then, do these vague terms get used a lot?  In my view, they amount to a marketing gimmick. 

More often than not, these arrangements will mean using some form of Trust – where money or property is held by people you trust (hence the name ‘Trustees’) in order to benefit those you have chosen (‘Beneficiaries’).  There are companies that give the impression that they are solicitors (whilst being careful not to use the term) that attempt to aggressively market these ‘products’ to people who are thinking about a difficult subject – their own demise.

Trusts are an extremely useful tool for many reasons; not only those mentioned above, but also for tax planning, directing an inheritance towards particular things, such as a house purchase or education, etc, or even just ensuring that the inheritance is made to last as long as possible such as where the beneficiary is prone to letting money ‘burn a hole in their pocket’.

I cannot underestimate how much it concerns me that there are too many organisations that try to use the making of a Will solely as a method to ‘sell a product’.  It is just not right.

My suggestions when considering taking advice to make a Will:

  1. Use a qualified adviser, such as a solicitor with the right experience and knowledge – such as one which holds the TEP qualification denoting their experience at a high level in dealing with Wills and Trusts;
  2. It is important to trust the person that you are dealing with.  They will need to know a lot about you, which means that you should make sure that you feel comfortable discussing your private affairs;
  3. Never be worried about asking ‘how much’ or ‘how long will it take’.  Make sure that you know from the outset what you are getting.
  4. It may seem obvious, but make sure that you receive advice that is appropriate to your circumstances.  Don’t accept an ‘off the shelf’ solution -ask how it will work for you.

Wills are seen by some as simple, but a badly drafted Will can cause all sorts of problems for those left behind.  Take proper advice, do it once – and do it right!

 

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