The past year has made us think a lot more about death and all the issues surrounding it – such as wills and inheritance.
Of course, talking about dying and the assets you’ll leave your loved ones can be an awkward and very morbid topic.
But, having these conversations ensures there are no surprises down the line.
Even EastEnders star Tamzin Outhwaite recently admitted she received less money than she was expecting from her mum’s will.
So, considering it’s a fact of life, why is the topic so taboo?
Experts explain below in what ways this can be addressed with families and why it’s crucial that people of all ages have a will in place.
Should we discuss what to expect with loved ones?
‘While it can be considered an uncomfortable conversation to have, making sure that your family understands your wishes and the plans you have in place for your inheritance will reduce the stress on your family once you pass away,’ says Rosie Hooper, a chartered financial planner at Quilter.
The death of a loved one is already an emotional period, but Rosie stresses that things are easier for everyone if these difficult conversations about finances have already taken place.
Rosie adds that it’s also critical to be honest with children about how much they can expect to receive.
She adds: ‘We tend to find that younger people may overestimate the inheritance they will receive. Having conversations earlier can not only put your own mind at ease, but could better prepare your beneficiaries for the future as well.
‘Additionally, if there was a sudden death or illness in the family then it would be beneficial to have already had those conversations, so the earlier you can begin discussing your inheritance openly with your family, the better.’
Penny Wright, a partner in the inheritance protection team at Gardner Leader, stresses that being open about the topic means that children can plan ahead.
She says: ‘To avoid disappointment and distress to you family after your death, it is important to prepare your children in terms of what to expect. If they live their lives in expectation of inheriting a fortune, they might not take their own careers seriously and make their own savings and pension arrangements.’
Alex Ruffel, tax partner at Irwin Mitchell, adds that this is particularly important with blended families.
‘Partners who come into a relationship with assets of their own and children from different relationships need to think carefully about how they plan their affairs and each make it clear to their own children what their plans are,’ he says.
Experts add that it’s vital to seek professional advice when going about this – and doing so might also help when explaining the specifics to loved ones.
Rosie says: ‘When considering your inheritance and what should be done with it – be that to your children or otherwise – it is important to receive financial advice to influence and support your decisions to be sure you make the best choices for you, and to help reduce any unnecessary inheritance tax charges.
‘It is positive to see more people beginning to talk openly about their inheritance.
‘Some people may consider it distasteful to discuss their future inheritance. However, it is important to not only look at your own inheritance, but what it could also mean in terms of support for the future generations within your family.
‘When planning your inheritance, there are many options to consider. Receiving financial advice and having an open conversation with your family will not only allow you to ensure that your wishes are fulfilled in the most tax efficient way possible, but your family can better understand their possible financial futures as well.’
Why should you make a will and when should you do it?
‘Alongside planning your inheritance, it is important to have a will in place to ensure that your wishes are fulfilled once you pass away,’ adds Rosie.
Wills are not simply reserved for middle-aged and retired individuals.
In fact, more younger people should consider making a will – especially if they have savings or property.
This is because if someone dies without making a will, the Intestacy Rules are followed – which can cause problems for some modern family dynamics, such as those who aren’t married or anyone with unofficially adopted children.
Rosie says: ‘Ideally a will should be in place as early as possible. While we do not wish to consider the sudden illness or passing of a loved one, it is best to be prepared.
‘If you pass away without a will, there are Intestacy Rules which dictate how your assets are allocated which may not be the way you would have wished.
‘If you feel you have assets that you would like to pass on, at your earliest convenience you should make a will. This can be particularly important for unmarried couples who are far better protected with a will in place.
‘Ultimately, it is down to the individual to make choices concerning the transfer of their wealth but receiving financial advice will ensure they have had the opportunity to explore all options and the implications of each before discussing with their families to prepare for the future.’
Making a will is also not just about money.
Alex adds: ‘A will does not just set out who should inherit but also appoints the people who should act as guardians of children if their parents die – and the people who should look after money, or assets, for children until they are old enough to receive them themselves.’
It seems the pandemic may have nudged some people to make a will – but experts say they hope more and more individuals will continue to do so.
Vlad Macdonald-Muntean, a senior associate at Aaron & Partners, says: ‘The global pandemic has seemingly focused minds and given many the opportunity to reflect.
‘Speaking from recent experience, it seems to have prompted people to take action, whether it’s by making changes to existing wills or thinking about writing a will for the first time.’
How to make a will
Making a will is pretty straightforward and doesn’t need to be expensive.
Alex says: ‘We strongly recommend that people use a professional to prepare their will for them as it is a legal document and the costs and strain on their families if it is wrong is too great to risk.’
While it’s not compulsory to have a professional oversee your will, they can be complex – so a poorly-written one could lead to family feuds or a prolonged legal battle.
This is why it can be a good idea to seek expert advice. Professionals can help you decide what property and assets to include in your will, as well as the named individuals who will inherit.
Alex adds: ‘Solicitors are specialists in will preparation and should be the first port of call. Many offer an online service that keeps costs to a minimum.
‘For those with more substantial assets such as valuable property or interest in businesses, it’s always sensible to take advice about inheritance tax as part of the will preparation so that wills are as tax-efficient as possible’
Credit: Original article published here.