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The wills of the people

27th Mar 2019
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Man Signing Last Will & Testament

Having discovered that it's impossible to escape from the topic of Parliament’s attempts to find a solution to the European conundrum, the starting point for this column is that overused phrase “the will of the people”.

But the wills at issue today are those that most of us do our best to ignore. As Benjamin Franklin told us a couple of centuries ago, nothing is certain in this life except death and taxes. Having written at inordinate length over many years about the latter, maybe the subject of how our friends and loved ones can benefit from whatever might be left in our estates should take centre stage for a change.

From time to time, we all meet affluent clients who have been reluctant to consider the prospect that one day they might depart this mortal coil, even if they firmly believe that it will be on the fast track to heaven.

In addition to easing future tax burdens for family members, any competent accountant will also be strongly recommending that clients should utilise the services of a solicitor to draw up a last will and testament.

Alternatively, for those that feel parsimonious, it is quite possible to surf the internet for sites presenting pro forma versions of wills that can be utilised at no cost. The issue then is whether or not they will achieve the intended goals and be legally binding?

While, theoretically, it is perfectly possible to die intestate and, in limited circumstances, achieve the correct disposition of your home, your wealth and all those treasured personal items. But that is a haphazard way to go about things.

It is only likely to work if the intended recipient is your spouse and he/she does not pre-decease you or, quite conceivably in the case of an accident, die at the same time.

Most of our clients are probably, please pardon the pun, strong-willed and therefore have very clear intentions. The problem is that we would all much rather pretend that we are immortal and leave planning of this type until later. That is perfidy good policy provided that we do not then keel over suffer an accident prematurely.

As a matter of policy, if you have private clients it would be a good idea to ensure that they have a will in place and it is up-to-date. While this may not bring you any direct fee income, it will certainly create goodwill (the unintended puns just keep coming) with clients and possibly solicitors if you are able to steer work in their direction. There must also be a chance of getting some estate planning and IHT work as part of the process.

Going one step further, while we are very good at advising clients about such sensible procedures, how many of us have drawn up a will of our own? Or, if you have, it may be so far out of date that there have been a couple of new wives or children appearing in the intervening period.

Take action now. If nothing else, it will help to take your mind off what is fast turning into a Parliamentary farce.

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Hallerud at Easter
27th Mar 2019 11:32

"It is only likely to work if the intended recipient is your spouse and he/she does not pre-decease you "

Re spouse automatic inheritance in intestacy, care needed vis a vis your comment as position in Scotland is not quite so simple- children have rights, no idea re down south.

One of my late father's favourite after dinner toast (he was a solicitor) was,

"God bless the man who writes his own will"

due to his firm's potential for extra income in the absence of a valid/effective will, to paraphrase Brexit, no will is better than a bad will.

The Scots even have such things in verse, another much loved earner for the Scottish legal profession,

"Hurrah for the Multiplepoinding! Hurrah!
What land but our own such a gem ever saw?
The Process of Processes —Pride of the law

Hurrah for the Multiplepoinding!
The Multiplepoinding, hurrah!"

And this then got followed by the description of a trust as a dripping roast- one earns through its creation, one earns through its management and one earns through its winding up, sometimes over very long periods of time.

Currently I am involved with the winding up of a trust that started before WW2, no doubt written (and invoiced in guineas) by one of my father's predecessors as partners, my father then earned from its management and his former junior partner (Now well into his upper sixties) then earned from its management and is now earning from its winding up- I am merely a lay trustee so earn nothing.

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