Guide to planning your estate

Of the 52 million adults living in the UK, over half do not currently have a Will.* Despite this, an increasing number of us are making the commitment to ensure our estates will be taken care of and our loved ones provided for.

Joanna Lumley is one person who has already spoken out about the importance of planning your estate. From her funeral, to her Will, Joanna already has it covered and recently told Saga magazine, “All the trouble you will cause by not leaving a Will. All the heartache! Family feuds are going to happen anyway, so be as clear as you can. And even if it’s only to leave it to the cat’s home, make a Will."**


A small number of us do still assume that the people we intend to inherit our estate upon our death will automatically do so, but this is not always the case by intestate law. This is especially true for those of us who aren’t married to our partners, have blended families, or stepchildren from previous marriages. Not leaving a Will, or not planning our estate properly, could result in some of our loved ones being unintentionally disinherited.

While some of us are given advance warning of the need to make a Will, such as deteriorating health, not all of us are prepared. The earlier a Will is made the better and once you have made one, it is important to have it reviewed from time to time, particularly in the case of a change of financial circumstances or any births, deaths or marriages within the family.

The recent high profile death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman shows exactly what can happen when we don’t keep our estate up to date. As his Will was made nine years prior to his death, it was not updated to reflect his full estate of an estimated $35 million and didn’t include his daughters. ᵻ

Philip’s partner, the executor of his Will, has now been left with a large tax bill due to the fact that his estate was larger than originally planned for and the couple were not married. It also means that provisions have been left for Philip’s son, but not for his younger children, which in some families could cause huge issues. While intestacy law does differ in the UK, similar issues arise from an out of date Will.

Perhaps some of us feel too young to make a Will? While 42% of 25-34 year olds feel they are too young to write a Will and 23% of us claim we have nothing to leave*, the number of Wills held by the youngest of us has actually doubled since 2013, showing that we are becoming more prepared for our futures.

Planning your estate is not just about leaving money and belongings but can also cover our funeral plans, Power of Attorney and other requests. A good example of this is Hollywood actor Paul Walker, who was prepared enough to make a Will despite his young age. He made sure it was updated to include his daughter and as well as leaving his estate, it also covered other personal requests, including his wishes for his daughter’s upbringing.^

Similarly, Michael Schumacher made a Will just three years prior to his skiing accident, claiming at the time that he did so because he was a ‘family man’ and his decision was “less about Formula One but because of the things that can happen in everyday life.”^^

So, while we may not all have millions in the bank or lead celebrity lifestyles, it just goes to show that when it comes to life, death and taxes, we are all equal. With a little planning and organisation, we can all ensure that we leave happy memories, not money worries, for our loved ones!

If you’d like more information on writing a Will, to review your current Will, or for further information on planning your estate, visit our estate planning service page.

*Will Aid Survey Statistics (2014) ** ^ ^^