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When should you start writing a will?

30th April 2018

It’s something everyone knows they should do. At the same time it’s something that nobody really wants to think about. Writing a will is often, and quite understandably, the last thing on people’s minds – especially at a younger age. So when should you start thinking about writing your will? After all, you’re probably not expecting it to be used for a long time yet.


The short answer is that it’s never too early to start planning ahead; unforeseen circumstances can and, unfortunately do, happen. However, there are certain events in life known as “triggering events”. These are huge landmarks that will likely change your inheritance plans and it’s therefore advisable that you revisit (or start writing) your will as these happen.


Trigger events


One – Marriage


Generally weddings are one of the happiest days in people’s lives. However, most people have a different view of romance to one that involves sitting down together and committing their estate to paper. In all seriousness, marriage is likely to dramatically change the identities of the  beneficiaries in your will, with your partner and in-laws (if you get along) now key considerations. Likewise, you may now have the stability that forms the foundation for a will that only needs minimal updating from thereon in. This should be done every five years or so. More importantly, marriage invalidates any previous wills unless a specific clause called ‘in contemplation of marriage’ is included. It’s therefore exceptionally important to plan ahead if you wish to maintain your current arrangement.


Two – Buying Property


Purchasing a home or alternative property dramatically raises the value of your estate. Although your will should be updated every time a significant change occurs (negative or positive), this is very likely to be the biggest investment you will ever make and thus has huge implications on who your beneficiaries are and how much they should be entitled to.


Three – Having children


Like marriage, having children now means that another person has become intertwined with your life. The largest beneficiaries are most commonly the children of the writer and thus every subsequent child should be a trigger to update your will. Forgetting to include a child not only gives the impression of rampant favoritism but could lay the foundations for decades of family feuds.


Four – Starting a business


Having a succession plan for any business is vital and should be included in your business plan. Specifying how your estate is passed on is arguably even more important when factoring in a family venture, particularly where the expectation might be for your offspring to take over once you retire. Although slightly off-topic, it’s worth thinking through the exact mechanics of how a business would transfer over. Many directors nominate an interim director to take charge for a year and steady the ship, allowing the next of kin to grow into the role. Likewise, writing a letter of intent into a will can be a clever move, removing ambiguity when it comes to the next steps.   


Don’t wait till too late


Often it takes a sudden and unexpected event before someone becomes aware of the true fragility of life. Most commonly these take the shape of close calls with illness or the passing of someone close to them. Having a will in place not only provides comfort to you in these hard times, but friends and family too. By keeping your will regularly updated with the help of skilled estate planners you can ensure everything goes to plan should the worst happen.


Even if little has changed in the last few years the chances are that the law might have, and without even realising, your will too. Indeed, a lot can change under the radar; perhaps a beneficiary has passed away or a long-lost relative unearthed. Perhaps you just want to leave everything to charity in a philontrophic change of heart. Either way it’s never too early to get essential documents in place. As they say, where there’s a will there’s most certainly a way.


For advice or help with writing your will, contact the friendly IMC team for information on how you can plan for your family’s future through our wills and estate planning services.

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