Making a Will

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We all know the saying, ‘Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans’. However, with the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it is sometimes difficult to make any plans at all!

Few people would deny the sense in making a Will, and most of us have at one stage or another considered it, but many of us just don’t get round to the task. Everyday life seems to get in the way and besides, talking about death is a little depressing don’t you think?!

Why should I make a Will?

Well, there is nothing morbid about making a Will – you can rest assured that it does not hasten the event! In reality, taking a little time to plan how you would wish your assets to be distributed upon death and knowing that your family and children have been properly provided for as per your wishes goes some way to relieving the stresses and worries that many of us may have about death, particularly as we get older. Essentially, by making a Will, you control who inherits and how much of your estate each of your chosen beneficiaries receive.

What if I have not made a Will?

If you have not made a Will, then laws made many years ago (which many people feel are now outdated) direct who the recipients of your estate will be. In today’s world, the patterns of family life are much more diverse and a family may include the following:-

  • Children by more than one partner
  • Step-children
  • Long-term unmarried partners.

If you have not made a Will, these are all complicating factors. For example, if you are unmarried but have a long term partner and child together, your child will inherit your estate if you die without a Will and NOT your partner. Yet most unmarried couples would wish, and expect, that their partner would be first in line to inherit, and their child second. If married, your partner moves to first in line but does not necessarily take all of your estate. Therefore, if you wish to have the reassurance that each and every member of your family is accounted for upon your death, making a Will is the best option for you.

Planning ahead can save you money and heartache, and most importantly will ensure YOU are in control of what happens after your death.

For more information on how to make a Will, please feel free to contact us here or alternatively leave your details below. 

 

Let’s Talk About….Death

deathDeath is something that most of us naturally prefer to avoid thinking about. However, as Benjamin Franklin famously said, “nothing in life is certain except death and taxes”.

“Keeping quiet” or “putting off” talking about our wishes for end of life and death can be problematic both for us and those who care for us.  Many of us have misconceptions about what might happen during end of life and death and the fact that we don’t talk about it, only exacerbates this.

Citizens Advice NI, Marie Curie and the National Association of Funeral Directors believe that a public health campaign is needed to encourage people to start talking and thinking about their wishes.

A recent report by Northern Ireland investigative publication, The Detail considers the issues around death.  These include the barriers to accessing advice and information and how the repercussions of death can have surprising, significant and detrimental implications in the long-term if we don’t take steps to rectify them. It looks at a wide range of issues including the following:-

Funeral costs

The funeral industry and how the cost of burial can vary dramatically across Northern Ireland – a “postcode lottery”.  Due to the sudden and distressing nature of many deaths and the fact that we don’t often want to plan ahead, we often find ourselves paying much more than we expect for a funeral. Sadly, this can result in to debt or poverty for those who are bereaved. The report looks in detail at the cost of death across council areas in Northern Ireland and calls for a uniform price.

More assistance with Funeral Payments

Funeral payments are available to those on receipt of certain benefits and cover the cost of a simple, respectful, low cost funeral. Sarah McCully Russell from Citizens Advice NI calls for an increase to these payments and more transparency and accessible information surrounding them.

Bereavement benefits

Bereavement benefits were reduced substantially in April 2017, with bereaved children being the hardest hit. Many people aren’t aware that cohabiting partners and their children are excluded from these benefits, despite societal changes and marriage being irrelevant to other benefits.  A landmark case on this issue is due to be heard by the Supreme Court sitting in Belfast in April 2018.

Living with a terminal illness

In the report , one gentleman suffering from terminal cancer shares the benefits of being able to express his wishes regarding donating his body to medical science and to make a Will. This has allowed him and his family to have peace of mind knowing his affairs are in order and he believes, allowed him to carry on living. He feels that making these choices now will make it easier for his family later.

The need for care

Marie Curie UK estimates that 3,000 people are missing out on the care and emotional and physical support that they need due to a lack of awareness and a reluctance to accept death.

The full report includes an interview with Siobhan McLaughlin, the woman involved in the landmark case on Bereavement Benefits currently before the Supreme Court, and her solicitor Laura Banks of Francis Hanna & Co . Siobhan told The Detail that she took the case for her children, because they are as deserving as any other child who has lost a parent:-

“You can have two 10-year-olds going through the same thing – both have lost their dad. Yet society has said to one of them because your parents were married you deserve this, and to the other one, you don’t. It makes them feel irrelevant. I felt I had to give it a shot,”

“For us it has made everybody more aware that this is happening and how wrong it is that we have two sets of children and one of them has been stigmatised by this and an action their parents took, which they have no say over.”

Read the full report from The Detail here 

 

 

 

Statutory Wills

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Guest Blog by Linda Johnston,  Partner , Francis Hanna & Co

Making a Will is one of those things on everyone’s ‘To Do’ list. We all mean to make one but many of us never seem to get round to it.

Putting your own Will aside, have you ever considered whether a Will may need to be made on behalf of someone you know who does not have the mental capacity to make one for themselves??

It sounds like an odd notion – making a Will for someone else. However, if someone has insufficient appreciation or understanding to make a Will, the Court can consider an application for a Will to be made on that person’s behalf – this type of Will is known as a Statutory Will.

Examples of people who may require a Statutory Will to be made on their behalf include the following:-

  • People who may have lost mental capacity to understand and manage their own affairs (for example, due to degenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia)
  • Those with a learning disability who do not have the mental capacity to understand the implications of making a Will
  • Those who have suffered a severe brain injury and have become mentally incapable of managing their affairs

Why make a Statutory Will?

The basic purpose of making any Will for most people is to allow them the freedom to leave any possessions, property or money that they have when they die to whoever they choose.

In order to make a Will, a person must understand the purpose of making a Will, and how their assets would be distributed to family or friends upon their death.   A Will is therefore only valid if it is made by a person who has the mental capacity to understand what they are doing.

In cases where this mental capacity is lacking, making a Statutory Will can help to  avoid the scenario where a person’s assets are given to someone they would not wish to benefit.  For example, an unexpected inheritance, personal injury award or other change of circumstances may leave a person with significant assets.   If that person is not mentally capable of making a Will,  their assets are at risk of being distributed upon their death to family members who perhaps they are not in touch with or who they would not have wanted their assets to go to.

A person may not have sufficient mental capacity to make a Will, but may be capable of other financial decisions.   Alternatively, family members of the person without mental capacity to make a Will may believe it to be in that person’s best interests that they have a Will stating how their assets are to be distributed on their death, for tax planning purposes for example or to avoid a situation whereby their assets are distributed unfairly.

How do I make a Statutory Will on behalf of someone else?

In order to have a Statutory Will made, an application needs to be made to the Court. The Court office that deals with applications is called the Office of Care and Protection. The procedure can be quite complex and therefore it is recommended that anyone making an application of this nature seek legal advice.

Many people are unaware of this opportunity.  I have used Statutory Wills for a number of clients to protect their assets and to avoid obvious injustice.

If you would like any further information on this area, please do not hesitate to contact me on the form below or alternatively by email on lj@fhanna.co.uk

Linda

LJohnstonLinda is a Partner in Francis Hanna & Co Private Client department specialising in estate planning, long term care issues and disputed wills. She was the first NI member of Solicitors for the Elderly, a network of specialist and passionate lawyers focusing on the increasing needs of our ever ageing population.

Linda is also a member of STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) and is a frequent speaker to parent and carer groups on the subject of future planning to protect the interests of vulnerable and disabled family and friends.

 
 

Making a Will

Ensuring your wishes come true once you’re gone

We all know the saying, ‘Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans’. However, with the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it is sometimes difficult to make any plans at all!

Why should I make a Will?

Few people would deny the sense in making a Will, and most of us have at one stage or another considered it, but many of us just don’t get round to the task. Everyday life seems to get in the way and besides, talking about death is a little depressing don’t you think?! Well, there is nothing morbid about making a Will – you can rest assured that it does not hasten the event! In reality, taking a little time to plan how you would wish your assets to be distributed upon death and knowing that your family and children have been properly provided for as per your wishes goes some way to relieving the stresses and worries that many of us may have about death, particularly as we get older. Essentially, by making a Will, you control who inherits and how much of your estate each of your chosen beneficiaries receive.

What if I have not made a Will?

If you have not made a Will, then laws made many years ago (which many people feel are now outdated) direct who the recipients of your estate will be. In today’s world, the patterns of family life are much more diverse and a family may include the following:-

  • Children by more than one partner
  • Step-children
  • Long-term unmarried partners.

If you have not made a Will, these are all complicating factors. For example, if you are unmarried but have a long term partner and child together, your child will inherit your estate if you die without a Will and NOT your partner. Yet most unmarried couples would wish, and expect, that their partner would be first in line to inherit, and their child second. If married, your partner moves to first in line but does not necessarily take all of your estate. Therefore, if you wish to have the reassurance that each and every member of your family is accounted for upon your death, making a Will is the best option for you.

Planning ahead can save you money and heartache, and most importantly will ensure YOU are in control of what happens after your death.

For more information on how to make a Will, please contact Karen or alternatively leave us your comments below.