Jenni Russell in a recent article in the Times looked at the cost of not making a Will when a close friend died. The emotional impact and cost was devastating on all. Jenni went so far as to suggest that making a Will should become compulsory. Having mulled this over for some time I began to think about what the compulsory system in place would look like in reality.
Making a Will sounds like a sensible view to take given the consequences if you don’t. However, at the very extreme end I thought, how do you monitor offenders, the people who, despite being compulsory, refuse to make a one? Even if people make Wills, compulsorily, how would you tell if they are fit for purpose? Would we have to set up the Will Enforcement Squad or the Will police who would be responsible for enforcing whatever regime came into effect? Would the fact that you did not make a Will be seen as criminal or civil offence and what would be the consequences for failing to make a Will. Given that approximately 70% of the population don’t make Wills and London has a population of over 8 million then nearly 5 1/2 million would be guilty!
Can you really force people to make Wills especially when they don’t think they own very much or that the family will sort it out when they are gone? As a solicitor we know that the consequences of not making a Will can have a long term impact particularly on children. Many families today are made up of children from first and second marriages. Trying to work out one harmonious solution for all is what often puts people off making decisions about how their estates should ultimately be divided in the first place. Trust me, nobody will thank you for your lack of action because it was just too complicated or sensitive.
I don’t think the making of a Will should be compulsory but from my perspective everyone should have a Will in place. Some of you reading this will think “Well a solicitor would say that wouldn’t they” and you would be right. However, there are key times in life when you should review your circumstances with the view to making or updating your Will. These could be getting a divorce, getting remarried, having children, owning property or inheriting from your parent’s, in fact any life changing event. The fact that you have children should be enough to make you think you should make you think seriously about putting one in placel. If your children are still under 18 when you die then you need to make provision for them to be cared for. Older grandparents are not always the ideal choice. Should they take over the care of your children and then die all your children will know is that people who love and care for them die. It sounds harsh but is a fact. People are living longer and not always in good health so the possibility of dying is ever present. There are workable options available. Finally, if it were compulsory to make a Will I expect challenges to Wills over time would soar.
If you would like to talk to me about making a Will then either e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 020 8899 6620.