Brits Not Preparing for Death because They Are Afraid to Burden Loved Ones

12 July 2019

Last year, we carried out the nation's Biggest Ever Survey into Death, Dying and Bereavement. One of the questions we asked people was how comfortable they were talking about death. A quarter told us that they were too uncomfortable to ever talk about their own death, and 10% of these said it was because they didn't want to make others worry about having to sort out their finances or Estate.

In reality, though, it is actually those that don't plan ahead and make a Will that are far more likely to cause stress for their loved ones after their death. If someone dies without a valid Will in place, then inheritance laws called the Rules of Intestacy will determine what happens to everything they own.

The Rules of Intestacy are strict and they may not be in line with the person's wishes. Ultimately, some loved ones could find themselves entitled to inherit little or nothing from the Estate. This can lead to lengthy legal disputes and even disagreements between family members.

So, not making a Will because of not wanting to burden loved ones with the thought of dealing with an Estate could actually create far more work and stress in the long run.

How It Works Without a Will

If you die without a valid Will in place in England or Wales, your Estate will be distributed in line with the Rules of Intestacy. These rules apply irrespective of the wishes of your family and they place your relatives in a strict order of priority. Some family members, such as step children and unmarried partners, are not recognised by the Rules of Intestacy. This means that some of your family members could be excluded from inheriting anything from your Estate.

Certain individuals are entitled to make a claim against the Estate if they feel that they have not been sufficiently provided for. Not everyone is entitled to make a claim though, and there's no guarantee that any claim would be successful. This is also likely to be a lengthy, costly and stressful process for your loved ones.

If your Estate is distributed to relatives that you would not have chosen as your beneficiaries, then this can inevitably cause distress for your family. In some situations, it can even lead to relationship breakdowns. Read one Co-op Member's story of how no Will led to the irreparable breakdown of relationships in her family.

Making Matters Simpler By Making a Will

By talking openly about death and making preparations, such as putting a Will in place, it's possible to make matters easier for your loved ones when the time comes.

In your Will, you can set out how you want your Estate to be distributed. You can name anyone you like as a beneficiary, including friends, relatives, charities and other organisations, and you can set out exactly how you'd like them to benefit from your Estate. This could be a specific sum of money, a specific item or a percentage of what's left in your Estate once any debts and expenses have been covered.

So, your loved ones will know exactly what you would have wanted, with no uncertainty, and your Estate can be distributed in line with your wishes. There's also the option of including a Letter of Wishes to be stored alongside your Will, in which you can explain exactly why you have decided to distribute your Estate in the way that you have.

In your Will, you can also appoint the person you want to administer your Estate after your death. This person is called your Executor and this can be a friend or family member or a professional, such as Co-op Legal Services.

If appointing a friend or family member, it's a good idea to have an open and honest conversation with them before you make your Will. This way you can check that they are happy and willing to take on the role, and they won't have any surprises when the time comes. It's also a good idea to appoint more than one Executor or a substitute, just in case your original Executor becomes unwilling or unable to act in the future.

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