Wills: Don’t put it on the long finger. The early bird catches the worm!
MyLegacy, a coalition of over 80 Irish charities, commissioned research which was carried out by Amárach Research in August 2012 on behaviour and attitudes to will making in Ireland.
The research showed that only 34% of people living in Ireland have made a will. This finding is consistent with similar research conducted in May 2006. The research also showed that only 51% of those aged between 45 and 64 years of age have a will, but 82% of those over age 65 years have a will.
The research also showed that:
- 44% of those who had not made a will intended to do so within the next five years.
- 68% of people aged 45 – 64 years who do not have a will intended to make one in the next five years.
- But only 57% of those aged over 65 years who did not have a will intended to make one within the next five years.
- Men (at 47%) were slightly more likely to want to change their will than women (at 39%) but this intention decreased as men get older.
- 37% of those in higher socio-economic groupshave made a will in compared with only 30% from more disadvantaged groups.
No time like the present! – The milestones in life which should encourage you to make a will
There is no time like the present to plan for the future and make your will. Really everybody should make a will but is appropriate in particular to do so (or to revise any existing will you have) on reaching certain stages in life, such as:
- Becoming the owner of property/cash
- Retiring, getting older or suffering illness
- Getting married – It is important to know that if somebody has made a will and later marries, that will is then void as if it was never made.
- Going abroad
- Getting divorced or separated – Getting divorced or separating will not mean that the terms of any previous will made while you were married would automatically change and so it is very important to revise your will at this point.
- Buying a house
- Having children
- Inheriting property (or winning the Lottery!)
The reasons why making a will is so essential
- A will is one of the most important documents that you will have to make decisions on in your life. The author of the will decides what is to happen to their property after their death and it is the only way to show that a formal and officially recognisable note of your wishes has been made. Many people also like to make gifts of money or of particular items such as furniture, clothing, or personal belongings to friends or relatives. These can be included in your will, no matter how big or small.
What will happen if you do not make a will before you die?
- If you do not make a will, the law outlines that your property is divided amongst your closest relatives in accordance with rules set out in legislation. This may not suit every family situation and takes control away from the deceased person as to who is to inherit from them – for example if an unmarried person with no children dies without making a will the first in line here to inherit would be their parents. Depending on the relationships within the family this may not be who that person would wish.
Appointing an Executor to look after your wishes when you die
- You can also, by making a will, have control over who is to carry out your wishes by appointing Executors in it. The Executor takes the responsibility of looking after your affairs when you pass and dealing all the paperwork necessary to transfer property to the people named in the will. This is an important responsibility and in our experience, usually people prefer to choose who will take on this role for them.
- For parents of children under 18 or children with a disability who may be unable to manage their own affairs it is very important as they can, in their will, appoint guardians of their own choice for their children, to make sure that each child is properly provided for depending on their circumstances and finally to ensure that they have the right people in place to manage any assets over a number of years for the children if both parents pass away.
Wishes for Funeral Arrangements
- In practical terms if you have particular preference about how you wish your funeral arrangements to be dealt with (e.g. burial in a certain place, cremation etc.) these can also be included in the will to prevent any uncertainty. It also makes it much easier for friends and family if their loved one leaves a will outlining exactly what their wishes are and it is cheaper in the long run.
Some important points to note on Wills
- Many people may not be aware but there are legal formalities that have to be adhered to so as to make sure that your will is valid and cannot be subject to challenge, these include being drafted and signed in a particular format and as to who can witness and how etc. It is always advisable to get legal advice from a qualified solicitor so as to avoid a situation where your will would be declared invalid for non-compliance with these rules.
- Updating a Will
- Somebody who has a will can update their will as many times as they like during their lifetime, but care should be taken to destroy any former wills in accordance with the formalities required by law. This is to prevent the possibility of any challenge to your most recent will. Your solicitor will be able to advise you on this.
- Assets are still yours until the date of death
- Just because you leave a certain asset in your will to somebody this does not restrict your ability to dispose of it during your lifetime – a will takes effect from the date of death so if an asset mentioned in it is no longer within the ownership of the deceased person when they pass that gift will simply not apply.
- Storing a Will
- It is important to notify somebody close to you of where your will is held so that it can be accessed when you should pass. There is no central wills register in the country so for the will to take effect its existence must be known. This does not mean that the details of what is in the will should be disclosed however.
- Foreign Assets
- People with assets in foreign countries need to make a separate will in that country dealing with those assets, as well as having a will here in Ireland for any property in this country. An Irish will is not valid for assets held abroad. It is very important to tell both your foreign lawyer and solicitor here about your will abroad so that the wills in both countries can then refer to the fact that another valid will for you exists and that neither will, taken by itself, can deal with all of your assets – they need to be read together.
- Spousal Rights
- If the author of a will is married and excludes their spouse from the will the spouse is still entitled to a ‘legal right share’. That means that a spouse cannot be dis-inherited. A spouse who has been excluded from a will is entitled to half the estate if there are no children. This share takes priority over all other gifts. A spouse who has been excluded from a will is entitled to one-third of the estate if there are children. This share takes priority over all other gifts.
- Children’s Rights
- Children however, who have been excluded from a will do not have the same entitlements – children have no automatic right to inherit from their parents but can make an application to challenge a will on the basis that a parent failed in their moral obligation to them, depending on the circumstances involved
- Co-ownership of a Property
- If property is owned jointly with somebody (e.g. a husband and wife) then depending on how the legal paperwork is structured this may fall outside of any property to be included in that person’s estate and may automatically go to the co-owner. It may not be possible then to include this property in the will at all and advice should be sought from your solicitor if you are uncertain as to whether this applies to you.
- Farm Entitlements
- Single farm payments attach to a farmer, not to their land. If a farmer then wishes to have the single farm payments go to a family member who is to inherit the farm, this needs to be stated separately in their will. Otherwise, the single farm payment could end up in the remainder of the will assets, and could pass to someone who has no involvement with the farm whatsoever.