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Canit Take It With You – New BBC Two series tackles the thornier side of making a Will

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Perhaps it is because we dislike thinking about our own mortality that causes most of us never to actually get around to making a Will – in fact, around 70 per cent of the adult population hasn’t got one, which means dying intestate and leaving a major financial and emotional headache for our families and heirs.

However painful and upsetting it may be to think about, at some point it is best to sit down with your nearest and dearest and let them know how you would like the proceeds of your Estate divided up.

A new BBC 2 series entitled “Can’t Take It With You” follows business guru Sir Gerry Robinson as he gives an insight into the making of Wills and some of the complications that can arise.

Dealing With Favouritism

In last Friday night’s programme Sir Gerry, joined by solicitor Sue Medder, addressed the thorny issue of favouritism and the question of whether families should give some children more than others.

When Trevor's parents died they left him 80 per cent of their estate, while half-sister Pat got just 20 per cent. Now history seems to be repeating itself: Trevor's desire to pass money back to Pat's family is complicated by his plan to show favouritism to just one of his sister’s daughters.

In another example, mother of five, Brenda, wants to leave more money to her youngest daughter Kerrie because of the better-quality childcare she has given her other daughters over the years. However, husband Robert has serious misgivings about this as he fears they would be sowing the seeds of a future rift between the siblings they have always treated the same.

Solicitor Hannah Pearson commented: “In my experience one of the main barriers to putting our affairs in order, apart from not wishing to think about death, is that it can sometimes raise conflicts within families and those close to us that are more easily swept under the carpet.

A Solicitor Can Help

“A solicitor experienced in such scenarios can help a client negotiate and navigate these potentially treacherous waters with the minimum of pain and disruption to relationships. Honesty, as they say, is usually the best policy and only by discussing and explaining the reasons for the particular decisions you have made can future conflicts be avoided.

“For instance, as was shown in the first episode, there can be disagreements where one spouse who has been married previously wishes to ensure that their children from their first marriage are provided for. Their spouse, however, may wish to leave their estate to someone else.

Leave the Estate in a Trust

It is possible to make Wills so that each spouse leaves their estate into a Trust for the survivor for their lifetime. On the death of the survivor, each spouse’s Estate then passes to beneficiaries of their choice.”

Hannah, who is a Private Client specialist at Pearson Hinchliffe LLP, said: “A Will is a legal document and should be properly prepared, and with the help of an experienced solicitor is not as expensive or difficult to do as you may think – in the long run it can save your family a lot of money indeed.

“I regularly witness the sense of satisfaction and relief in clients when they have finally sorted out their affairs. The knowledge that they will preserve the future of their family and friends is generally a major weight of people’s minds.”

Hannah added: “I commend the BBC for tackling a difficult yet important topic.  The complexities of modern life, second marriages, step children and growing assets mean that for a majority of people relying on the legal rules which would apply without a Will or filling in a pre-printed form from WH Smith or using the services of a ‘Will writer’ simply won’t do the job, and could in fact land your heirs in serious, and expensive, trouble.”

The Next Episode – Islamic Wills

The third episode of “Can’t Take It With You” airs on BBC Two on Friday 28th January. In this episode Gerry Robinson helps a Muslim couple who want to split their assets fairly between their two sons and one daughter while remaining true to Islamic Shariah which stipulates a greater share in an inheritance to men than their female siblings because of their greater financial responsibilities in life.

Solicitor Hannah Pearson is happy to clarify any of the issues raised and can be contacted at Pearson Hinchliffe LLP on the details below. 

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

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