Taking Care with Wills

Some aspects of Wills are obvious; some are less obvious given the passage of time.  People often make Wills and then do not make further Wills for 20 or 25 years. Lots can change. There is a danger of your wishes being undermined by events.

 Gifts of Bank Accounts and Shares

If you had made a Will in 1985 and given all your Woolwich accounts to James. This gift would be ‘adeemed’.  Woolwich does not exist and even if the money in these accounts were transferred to Barclays, the gift is likely to lapse. Shares have a similar problem as companies are constantly amalgamating and sometimes dividing. It is often better to give specific amounts of money or shares of an estate. If you give specific amounts of money, it is even possible to ‘inflation-proof’ it by linking it to the consumer or retail price index. If you give shares of an estate to a beneficiary, the share of the estate remains, whether your estate at death is big or small.

Gifts of Houses

These can be particularly dangerous: “I GIVE 5 Orchard Drive to Jack”. What if you sold 5 Orchard Drive and moved into another house? What if 5 Orchard Drive was sold to pay for care costs? These gifts framed in this way, are generally worth avoiding, as they can seriously distort a will: “I GIVE 5 Orchard Drive to my only son Jack and the rest of my estate to my only grandchild Jane”. If you do not own 5 Orchard Drive at your death, Jack gets nothing, Jane gets everything. What if Jack and Jane are estranged? What if this mess cannot be sorted out?

Minor Gifts

If you do not have a minor gift (mentioned in a Will) when you die, you cannot give it away in your Will. This may not matter. If you have given Uncle Bert’s clock to Jack before you died, it does not matter that you put in your will that Jack was going to get the clock. It has been done. Nevertheless, care is needed in giving items away in a Will.

Inevitably – we would recommend that you receive professional advice in making Wills. They are not always straightforward.