Some think that they are too young to need to bother, others simply don’t get around to it. That’s why two-thirds of adults in the UK have not yet made a will.
However, as some celebrities have shown, unless we get to grips with our demise, and make plans for it, our loved ones could be left with a real headache.
One high profile example of this was the murder of TV presenter Jill Dando in 1999. Amidst the shock of her death, it emerged that she had no will, and despite the fact she was due to get married later that year, her partner would not inherit any of her £1.18 million estate.
Instead it passed to her father. The logic of who was part of her life held no sway, because when you die without a will, your family cannot divide your estate between them as they think you would have wanted.
In England and Wales, under the rules of intestacy, if you are married or in a civil partnership (and you have children), your spouse will inherit the first £250,000 of your estate. If you are just living together, your partner will get nothing.
The tragic death of comedian Rik Mayall is another example. He died at the age of 56 before he had a chance to make a will.
This meant his wife received the first £250,000 from his estate, and a portion would automatically pass to his children. This may not have been exactly what he wanted, especially as it triggered a large inheritance tax bill.
Even royalty get these things wrong sometimes. During the trial of her former butler, Paul Burrell, in 2003, it emerged that Diana had written a letter of wishes requesting that her estate be divided differently than specified in her will. The letter requested that her 17 godchildren would get a portion of her estate too.
She had written the letter just after her will in 1993, before her divorce, when her personal belongings were relatively small because so much belonged to the royals.
After her divorce, the value of her personal estate rocketed, but she never updated the letter.
When she died, her mother and sister decided that it was no longer appropriate to divide her estate this way, and they ignored the letter. Legally they had no responsibility to carry out requests in a letter of wishes.
The key point to take away from these celebrity cases is that it is absolutely vital to have a will – it’s the only way you can exercise control over who gets what, and how much.
Our specialist team at JW Hinks have many years’ experience in helping individuals in this area.
For more information about our lifestyle services at JW Hinks, please contact Paul Jones, Dan Morgan or Neil Hale.