Have you got the will to make a will?
Planning for the long term
Many of us sit down at the beginning of each year and make a list of things which we hope to achieve in the coming months. A healthier lifestyle, a new hobby, completing a project and saving money are commonly top of the short-term list. But what about planning for the longer-term?
I have been asked by several of my friends over the last few months about writing a Will. Maybe it’s the effect of the years starting to tick past the big ‘4-0’ that has had this effect, or perhaps it’s just the fact that as our children start to grow up, our minds turns to making sure that they will be looked after in the event of our deaths.
Whatever the reason, if you have a strong opinion as to who you want your property to go to when you die, you should make a Will.
In Jersey law there are two types of property; movable and immovable. These are dealt with separately as follows, so it is advisable to have a different Will for each.
A Will of Jersey immovable property deals with land and everything built on it, leases for over 9 years, flying freehold property and the benefit of certain mortgages.
A Will of movable property deals with all other assets such as jewellery, furniture, bank accounts, shares (including those that relate to share transfer properties) and investments.
Nobody likes to think about death, particularly their own. However, making preparations for your death has many advantages. The primary benefit is that you get to decide (within certain parameters set out by Jersey law) who you wish to inherit your assets. If you do not make a Will, this will not happen, and the law dictates who will inherit from you. This will create a situation called an intestacy. This process can potentially take far longer for your family to resolve than if you had a Will.
The law does not currently permit unmarried couples to inherit from each other without having a Will. The death of a partner is therefore likely to cause considerable hardship and uncertainty. In today’s modern world, many couples take a conscious decision not to marry or to enter a civil partnership. Without having a will in place, should one of them die, their heirs will inherit their assets to their partner’s absolute exclusion.
If, however, your immovable property is held in the joint names of you and your partner, then upon your death it will pass automatically to the other joint owner without any need for a Will.
Reviewing an existing Will
It is always important to have a Will in place, but it is equally important to bear in mind that there are certain circumstances in which you should review an existing Will:
The beneficiaries to your Will have changed – if one of your beneficiaries dies, or you have new grandchildren, you may wish to consider whether this would change how you drafted your Will.
You have acquired new assets – if you acquire any significant new assets you may wish to think about how you want them to be dealt with after your death. If you buy an interest in a business, then you may need to check that your Will does not contradict any of the documents which relate to your business. For example, you might leave the shares in a company to someone in your Will, but the company’s articles of association may include restrictions on what happens to those shares on your death.
Changes to personal circumstances – when you marry, enter a civil partnership, divorce or have children it is important to update your Wills. At different stages of our lives, we have different thoughts about who we want to leave our assets to and how. If you do not put your wishes in a Will, they are unlikely to be carried out. It is also now possible to appoint a Guardian in your Will to care for your children in the event of your death.
Just do it
So, if like many of my friends, you think often about writing a Will, but do nothing about it, this is your reminder to do so. Most firms offer the service and for broadly a similar cost. If, like mine, your Will is in desperate need of revision because it is out of date, dig it out, dust it off and give instructions to your lawyer as to how you want them to amend it.