One of the worst things you can do to a loved one is to die intestate. That is, to die without having made a will.
It is not just that your money and worldly goods might not go to the people you intend them to. It is not even that your estate might be subject to far more tax than necessary. The reason you should make a will is that if you don’t, you will make life hell for the poor sod tasked with sorting out your affairs after you have selfishly shuffled off this mortal coil.
Ordinarily when someone dies their will identifies an executor who is legally authorised to act upon the deceased’s account to settle their affairs.
Where there is no will though little can be done until a legal document called a grant of letters of administration is obtained from the probate registry. This can sometimes take well over a year to obtain and I’ve heard of it taking 16 months. Long before then many creditors (utilities and mortgage lenders) will have lost patience and will haven taken action to “recover” what they are “owed”.
At a minimum this will be distressing and an incredible hassle. It could also easily result in assets, including the deceased’s house, being repossessed with the family powerless to act.
While some utilities and service providers are very sympathetic, many respond as though nobody had ever died before. They will make demands that are both physically and legally impossible for you to comply with.
Having a will, even a simple one, will reduce much of the administrative burden. More importantly it will ease the stress on your loved ones at what is already a very difficult time for them.
Free Wills Month
The good news is that if your affairs are relatively straight forward you should be able to benefit from Free Wills Month.
A group of charities have persuaded a number of solicitors to offer members of the public aged 55 and over the opportunity to have wills written or updated free of charge. Generally free wills months are in March and October.
Tell Us Once
Other things that will really help when you do lose a loved one is the government’s Tell Us Once death notification service, which saves you having to inform each branch of national and local government separately.
Another useful service is the The Bereavement Register, which is designed to reduce, and ideally stop, direct mail shots addressed to the deceased.
One final point is that this column from the Guardian a while back puts far more eloquently than I ever could how painful and frustrating it can be when a loved one dies intestate.
Take care out there