Are you well prepared for death?
It sounds like an alarming question. Death is still a taboo topic for many people in the UK; it’s not especially comfortable to discuss our mortality, even with our family or closest friends.
But because death is an inevitable part of life, and one which has financial consequences, it is essential to discuss. Preparing for death should be one part of the agenda you cover with your financial planner.
New research has found that people in the United Kingdom are better prepared than ever for death.
The research, based on a survey carried out by Will Aid, found an increase in those who have their affairs in order.
Asking over 18s whether they have made a will, the researchers found that 50% now have. This is up from 47% last year.
Will Aid is a charity will-writing campaign which takes place in November each year. The campaign encourages people to write a will, donating their solicitor fee to charity.
Graham Norton, a Will Aid patron, said he had come face-to-face with death on two occasions.
“On the first, my own life was threatened after I was stabbed during a mugging in Queen’s Park and lost nearly half my blood.
“The second involved the loss of my father Billy who died shortly after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
“Both made me realise that life is too short. And both made me accept that death is very, very final. There are no comebacks, revivals or retaliations.
“A will is therefore a vital document that allows you to pass on your final wishes to the people you love most.”
Fellow Will Aid patron Dame Judi Dench said:
“Death is always devastating but it is also inevitable.
“Making a will is a way to confront this certainty in the knowledge that, by completing the paperwork, you will be making the experience less traumatic for your loved ones.”
While 50% of surveyed over 18s having a will in place is a good improvement on a year earlier, it still means that half of UK adults have failed to get their act together.
Dying without a will, known as dying intestate, can have devastating consequences for our loved ones, as assets are distributed in line with the law, rather than our wishes.
Jon Jacques, Chairman of Will Aid, said:
“When we think of the considerable assets celebrities have, we assume that because of the large sums of money involved, they would have their affairs in order, but this isn’t always the case.
“There is a misconception that if you die intestate, your relatives decide how the assets are split. But when a person dies without leaving a valid will, the estate must be shared out according to the rules of intestacy. Only married or civil partners and some other close relatives can inherit under these rules.
“Failing to make a will can mean that your wealth could go to people you did not intend it to and leave your family and loved ones without the provisions that you wanted.”
The research found that some parts of the UK are doing better than average, including adults in East Anglia, where 58% have a will in place.
Regions falling behind the average include Northern Ireland, with 63% of those surveyed admitted they don’t have a valid will in place. In the North West of England, 58% of adults said they don’t have a will.
Mr Jacques continued:
“Events such as becoming a parent, grandparent, losing a partner, getting divorced or separated, inheriting assets and getting married are all life events that we should update our wills to reflect.
“Buying a house, large investments, the acquisition of additional properties or businesses and retirement plans should all be kept current in terms of the contents of your will.
“Failure to update changes in your circumstances can leave the loved ones you leave behind financially unprotected.”
Will Aid Month in November should act as a good prompt to get a professionally written will created, with the help of a solicitor who specialises in this service.
Law firms are volunteering their time and expertise during November to write wills, with fees waived so the equivalent can be donated to Will Aid instead. Donations to Will Aid support the vital work of nine partner charities.
The suggested voluntary donation for your basic Will Aid will is £100 for a single will and £180 for a pair of mirror wills.
Those who wish to make a will can book their November appointments from September onwards via the Will Aid website at https://www.willaid.org.uk/ or by calling Will Aid on 0300 0309 558.
Last year Will Aid raised more than £1million for its charity partners – ActionAid, Age UK, British Red Cross, Christian Aid, NSPCC, Save the Children, Sightsavers, SCIAF (Scotland) and Trocaire (Northern Ireland).