Co-op member, Chris Blackmore, has first-hand experience of what a difference having a Will can make when a member of the family dies. He shares his experience with us.
Death has never been a taboo subject in Chris' family. His grandfather ran the family's monumental stonemasons business, making gravestones – a business that was started by his great grandfather. An acceptance and understanding of death runs through the family and death is something that has always been openly talked about.
Because of this, Chris has a healthy relationship with what can be a very difficult topic for many, explaining, "It's not something that we ever shied away from. We've always talked about death – it was something we were brought up with."
Chris' first insight into the impact of having a Will was after the deaths of his grandmother and grandfather, who died within four days of one another. His grandfather had made a Will detailing exactly what he wanted to happen with his Estate, while his grandmother had not made a Will.
Chris' mother was responsible for winding up the affairs of both of her parents. When dealing with her father's Estate (Chris' grandfather) she found the process to be incredibly straight forward. Her father's Will set out exactly what should be done and she didn't come across any stumbling blocks along the way. Everything was sorted out quickly and without any fuss.
When it came to her mother's Estate (Chris' grandmother) this was far more complicated, even though her Estate was very small. Chris explained that there were no particular issues to speak of, but the process of winding up her affairs without having a Will to refer to was very difficult.
The Family's Attitude towards Wills
Chris' mum became an advocate for the importance of Wills following the loss of her parents. She put a Will in place herself and encouraged her children to do the same. Chris tells us, "She kept saying to us children how important it is to have a Will."
Chris sadly lost his mother in 2007 following a short battle with cancer. Her death came quickly and unexpectedly, leaving little time for the family to prepare. However, her forward planning meant that everything was already in place to ease the burden on the family while they were coming to terms with their loss.
Chris says, "If there hadn't been a Will, it would have been a hundred times harder. In her Will it was laid down – 'this is what will happen to my Estate'."
He explains that there were still some minor disagreements over personal items that weren't listed in the Will, saying, "If they'd been in the Will as well ... then it would have been even easier."
Chris took after his mother, becoming an advocate for Wills himself. He urged his in-laws to put their Wills in place. They were "absolutely horrified to talk about death," but after much persuasion, they agreed to make Wills. This made things so much easier for their family after they died.
Chris' Own Experience of Making a Will
Chris and his wife put their Wills in place when Chris was 40 and his wife was 35. With over half of UK adults not having a Will and many people not wanting to think or talk about Wills until they are well into their retirement, some people may think that making a Will at 40 is early to be planning for death. Chris, however, felt that he and his wife had left it rather late, as by this point his mother had been stressing the importance to him of making a Will for such a long time.
The main trigger for Chris and his wife making their Wills was Chris leaving the RAF and the couple buying their first home together.
Chris and his wife found the Will writing process very easy. They explained their circumstances and outlined their wishes to leave their Estates to one another and then to their children. They also needed to make arrangements for Chris' mother in law, who was living with them at the time, to make sure she was provided for if anything happened to them.
They were recommended Mirror Wills, which were then drawn up. Chris says, "I was quite surprised that it was that easy. It was almost like there was a template for our circumstances." Although he did note, "I wouldn't try and do it myself!"
The organisation of his mother had such a lasting impression on Chris that it went on to inspire him to make his Will even more comprehensive. Chris explains that alongside her Will, his mother included written details of her personal items and detailed who in the family she would like these to go to. Chris said that this then influenced him to make additions to his own Will.
Now he and his wife have made their Wills, they can rest assured that these preparations will make things so much easier for their sons when the time comes.