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12 Aug 2021

Wills & Probate

It’s never too early to think about the future: writing a will while you’re young.

While graduating from university, moving into your first flat and pursuing your dream career are often firm features of your 20s and 30s, putting your affairs in order often lags much further behind.

And with so much of the literature surrounding will writing offering guidance to those heading towards retirement, it comes as no surprise that just 24% of adults under the age of 35 have a valid will in place. But as Afonwy Howell-Pryce, an Associate in our Wills and Probate team explains, it is never too early to be thinking about the future.

Anyone in the Wills and Probate team will know I’m a huge advocate of young people instructing a solicitor to write a will. But if it wasn’t for my job and the volume of heartbreak and uncertainty I have to witness that is caused by not having a valid document in place, I’m not sure I would have realised the importance either!

Below, I’ve debunked some of the most common misconceptions and questions I get asked in my role, and explain why it’s never too early to prepare for the future, whatever that may hold.

#1: I don’t have anything to leave

While it’s true that in the earlier stages of adulthood, you may not own or pay a mortgage against a property, have accrued a lifetime’s worth of possessions or made notable contributions to a pension pot, you may be surprised by the amount of items of worth or value that you would want to leave to family and friends.

For example, many workplaces offer a death in service benefit, offering a tax-free lump sum to loved ones should you pass away – this can be upwards of three or four times your annual salary, so it’s worth having a plan in place regarding who will benefit from these funds. And with age on your side, it’s unlikely that you’ll have put much, if any, money aside for a funeral – any funds you have accrued could go a long way in helping your family at what will already be a hugely difficult time. You can also use your will to outline any requests you may have for your funeral.

It’s not just physical items that you’ll need to consider – as a tech-savvy generation, it’s likely that you’ll have a number of digital assets that may be incredibly valuable to those you leave behind. For some, your social media – such as Instagram and Facebook, may become a space to commemorate your life, but others may find it difficult to see your profile pop up after you’re gone, so it’s useful to consider if, or how, your social media profiles will be managed.

It’s also worth making arrangements for any other spaces online within which you have a digital presence, such as your email address, investments into platforms such as Bitcoin and subscription and streaming services.

And what about the four-legged friends that keep you company? While they require a little less planning than children, there are still important decisions you’ll need to make such as who will care for your pet(s) and if you’d like to put any money aside to cover not only vet bills and insurance, but also the day-to-day outgoings such as food and grooming.

#2: I’m not married / I don’t have children

While for many, a wedding or the birth of a child is the prompt needed to put their affairs in order, the absence of these events should not mean you forego having a will in place!

In fact, not being married makes it even more important to ensure you are prepared for the future. Although the number of cohabitees increases each year, the law is yet to catch up and does not officially recognise ‘common-law’ marriages.[1] This means that if something were to happen, your ‘other half’ would not be granted the same rights to possession.

The rules of intestacy could cause enormous financial and personal difficulties for your surviving partner. If you share property as ‘Tenants in Common’, without a will in place your portion of the house wouldn’t automatically be transferred to your partner. They may also face difficulty in accessing bank accounts and won’t automatically have a say in your healthcare or funeral plans. You can find out more about the importance of estate planning for cohabiting couples here (link to blog).

So although it may feel like you’re an old married couple, make sure to put this in writing and avoid putting them at risk.

#3 I’m fit and healthy

If the last 18 months has taught us anything, it is that life is hugely unpredictable (and that your WiFi will fail you during only the most important of Zoom meetings). The pandemic has brought death to the forefront of conversations. Indeed, the day Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to intensive care saw the biggest growth in wills being written of 2020.[2]

It’s essential to put your affairs in order while you are fit and healthy. You must be deemed of sound mind, i.e. have full comprehension of self and your situation, to make a will. You’ll also need to take into account the time taken for the administrative processes associated not only with will writing, but also if you’d like to establish a Lasting Power of Attorney for your health and/or finances.

Waiting until illness strikes will make the whole process much more difficult, expensive and in some instances, impossible. It’s also worth noting that any questions surrounding your capacity could welcome a dispute, especially if friends or family do not agree with the contents of your will.

#4 I’m too busy – besides, it costs a fortune!

While making a will is often seen as a long and costly exercise, it’s often quite the opposite. By instructing a solicitor (such as one of the friendly team at Harding Evans), you can ensure that the correct legal process are followed and your last wishes are carried out.

Plus, here at Harding Evans, we can accommodate a wide range of meeting types – from face-to-face to telephone and even video calls to help you fit this in amidst a busy schedule.

And when it comes to keeping track of costs, a single will is just £175 + VAT – a small price to pay for peace of mind!

If you would like to talk to one of our friendly, sympathetic team at Harding Evans about making a will, we have years of experience and can offer expert advice and guidance. Visit our website at www.hardingevans.com, email hello@hevans.com or call 01633 244233 or 029 2267 6818.

[1] The Guardian, ‘Cohabiting couples fastest-growing family type, says ONS’, 2019

[2] Huck Magazine, ‘Facing death: why young people are writing wills’, 2021

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