Typically, when people feel they “have” to do something, the opposite occurs and they avoid it. It's often the same with creating a will. If you know you should do one, you put pressure on yourself to do it. But that pressure can be what drives you to not do it, ironically.
Often, I find that people think that the will they make now is the “be all and end all” document and they are just not ready to make such huge and overwhelming decisions at this stage. A will is something you create for right now—not for some time in the future—with what you currently have, what your thoughts are for giving them away, and who you know now that you would like to give them to. Next year, all that can change. People often say that they are not sure who yet is interested in farming, who is interested in the family home, who intends to move away etc. Change is inevitable, and the child you may think will go farming may not, and vice versa. All you have to do at that point is revise your will. The best part is, once you've made your first will, the next one becomes much easier. Then you get to a point, as you go along through life, where you get clear ideas of what you should change, enabling you to easily keep your will consistent with how you feel today.
As they say, “Ignorance is bliss.” Most often, those that don't make their wills simply aren't aware of what are the effects of not making a will. Without a will, your estate is distributed according to the rules of intestacy, which means that your assets could pass to a person or persons whom you would not want them to pass at all! If you are married, your spouse would receive some or all of your property, then your children; and if there are no children, then to your parents; and if there are no parents, then to your brothers and sisters or their children; etc. You get the idea. And the process to figure all this out costs money, which your estate pays for. So, if that is what you intend, then great. But most people’s intentions are not reflected in the rules of intestacy, so that's why it's good idea, to plan ahead. You would not leave anyone dictate what you do with your assets now, so why would you let someone dictate as to who acquires your assets after your death!
Not wanting to deal with family issues is a big reason a lot of people don't make their wills. Having to confront issues of the past can be extremely uncomfortable and sometimes painful. While issues with past relationships, an addicted family member, or more can seem unresolvable, there are solutions. One way is to work with a solicitor, who, in these types of situations, can help, as they generally have experience tailoring wills to deal with more complex or delicate family dynamics.
Not knowing how to start a will can trip some people up, but using it as an excuse to not do one is not that convincing. You can start by organising your thoughts on paper or by talking to your spouse or family. There are any number of ways to start—it all boils down to taking that first step.
It is not only people that are in the latter part of their life that should make a will. It is very common for 20–30 year olds to not make a will, even after they have children and buy their first home. It is as important for anyone who has assets to make a will. You're never too young to start planning ahead.
The idea that only wealthy people need wills is simply not true. Everyone needs a will, whether you're old, young, rich, poor, male, female, married, single, childless or you have children. More than likely you have property and personal possessions that you would want to go to specific people. To put it all down on paper for your family and friends is not only a compassionate thing to do—it's also a smart thing to do.
So, it’s a New Year, a fresh start, and perhaps making a will should be added to your list of New Year Resolutions.
Karen Walsh, from a farming background at Grenagh, Co Cork, is a solicitor practicing in Walsh & Partners, Solicitors and Commissioners for Oaths, 17, South Mall, Cork.
Disclaimer: While every care is taken to ensure accuracy of information contained in this article, solicitor Karen Walsh does not accept responsibility for errors or omissions howsoever arising, and you should seek legal advice in relation to your particular circumstances at the earliest possible time.