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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

“When should I write a will?” is often a question you ask yourself when certain life events take place or are on the horizon, leading you to think more of “what-ifs?” and your own mortality.

 

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.   

 

Other trigger events

 

Divorce

 

A more unforeseen possibility in life after marriage is divorce. This emotional life event could change your previous wishes and thus affect your will.

Perhaps you now don’t want your former spouse to get the summer home in France? Whatever the changes of marital circumstance, keeping your will updated with your life as it unfolds and shifts is the best way to give you and those close to you peace of mind.

 

Remarriage

 

Following on from marriage and divorce, remarriage is also a life event that can and should affect your will. You will want to make sure that your new family is cared for along with any children or spouses from your previous marriages.

 

Health scares and losing someone

 

Naturally if you’ve had a recent health scare such as a heart attack or a bad physical report from Occupational Health at work, you’re likely to think about your life and death. This leads to you thinking about those you could leave behind, your finances and possessions should you pass away. Similarly, if you have a recent death in the family or perhaps lose a friend then you’re more likely to contemplate your own mortality.

Sitting down and actively thinking and planning your will gives you some comfort in the knowledge that even in the face of adversity, you have the matter in hand. You can never be too young to write a will. So when asked “when is it time to write a will?”, the answer is “now”. The sooner you have your wishes planned, clarified and written down, the better. The comfort you’ll get from knowing that should the worse happen your family and assets will be well taken cared for as you’d wish is priceless.

 

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.

Leaving a legacy in your last will and testament is a great way to be remembered by those you care about the most. Whatever life throws at you it’s wise to plan for any possibility, and we at IMC are very enthusiastic about planning, even for the unexpected. IMC’s team of skilled financial advisors are well versed in will and estate planning, and will support you sensitively through the process of creating your will. An advisor will also highlight any oversights there may be, ensuring you and your loved ones can rest assured, safe in the knowledge that should the worst happen, the best financial outcome will be one less thing to worry about.

will writing

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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