Nearly 30 million people don’t have a will, and experts are urging more to take action to avoid family disputes. Neil Jones, tax and estate planning specialist at Canada Life, who conducted the research, said you shouldn’t hesitate to talk about family finances: “Even though no one likes to think about their own mortality, it should not be a taboo subject. Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said without proper planning your final inheritance could be an unpleasant family conflict: “Tie up the details, make a will and deal with the tensions while you can.”
Here are some of the biggest mistakes you can make.
Failing to draw up a will: If you die without a will, your estate is divided according to specific rules, rather than according to your wishes. Coles said: “If you are not married, your partner may inherit nothing. Your estate passes to children, parents and siblings, in that order.”
“Even if you are married, your spouse may not inherit everything because all children may be entitled to part of the estate.” If you divorce or get married, you will also need a new will, “added Coles.
Cancellation of your will: Simple mistakes like signing in the wrong place or not having witnesses present when you sign can wreak havoc. Be careful with the wording, Coles said: “Don’t just say you’ll leave your ‘favorite’ ring for your daughter, specify the ring and the girl.”
Do not tidy up your affairs: Gather all documents, including birth and marriage certificates, divorce decrees, and income tax returns. “List all of your accounts, investments, pensions, health insurance, life insurance, debts, mortgages and any insurance that covers the mortgage.
Overpromised: If you promise to leave someone specific something, you have to put it back in the paperwork or tell them you’ve changed your mind, Coles said: “If you avoid the problem, you leave it to someone. else.”
Too much to ask: If you want your loved ones to go through complex requests, put in place the right legal structures and the money to pay the professionals. “If you ask someone to take over the administration and expenses for years, they can refuse,” Coles said.
Failing to explain: Talk to those affected, even if you divide the assets evenly among the children, in case more is expected. “If your will leaves a particular person worse off, an explanation is vital,” Coles said.
Ignore existing tensions: If you are writing to someone in a will, or if someone will be arguing for more, you must protect everyone. “Explain your decision in writing, so the courts know you made the decision on purpose,” Coles said.
Keep the letter of wishes next to your will: “Contrary to will, it is not made public and therefore cannot ignite tensions,” Coles said. If you suspect a controversy, it is essential that you write a waterproof will and appoint a professional executor.