Latest time to make a will

During a question and answer session at a recent talk I was asked, ‘when is the latest time to make a will?’

The answer comes in 3 parts, the first and most obvious – it’s a lot of hassle, and very expensive for the client, generally its not something we like to do – although better late than never.

The question was ‘When is it too late to make a will – apart from when one is dead of course?’

The answer, as I alluded to earlier had always be internalised, but now comes time to articulate it.

Around the middle of the second term, most economics students would learn about money, and one line drummed through the ages is that ‘money has no intrinsic value’ – it has no use in its own – it is only useful for what we can do with it. In this respect, a will is of little value by itself a will is of value for what it can do – so if we left the important issue of minor children for now, the main point of a will is to give the things one owns to the important people in one’s life.

The things in your life to the people in your life. 11 words that could go towards enhancing one’s family’s financial and social status for generations to come. One of the benefits of a will is that is the foundation of inheritance tax planning. Most people in a bout of unwarranted modesty believe inheritance tax is not a problem with which they have to contend. The sooner one started this business of estate planning, the greater would be the scope for keeping one’s wealth in the family rather than it burn in care home fees or inheritance tax. In our experience families save hundreds of thousands of pounds inheritance tax by simply planning early.

No far thinking professional wants to write a will against which a successful challenge would be brought. A trawl of contentious probate cases highlights the fact that cases more often than not tend to have one of two characteristics the first being that the document was a forgery or the testator was not of sound mind the second class being that the testator failed to receive proper professional advice in laying out his or her wishes. It is the first class that is our concern here. Those who have worked with the seriously ill or dying report that those who are near death might be fearful or confused, as such it might be easy to influence them (one reason hospitals and care homes are reluctant to get their personnel involved in anything that has the semblance of a will). Hardly a surprise if a will made in such circumstances is subject to challenge.

Having made a will earlier gives the scope to lay a ‘paper trail’ so that any changes in the will are well documented and would reasonable in light of the changing circumstances of the testator’s life.

While better late than never, the sooner one gets round to writing a will thus determining the extent of estate planning required, the easier, cheaper and more thoroughly the aims of the will can be accomplished.

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