Making a will? Why so serious?
Many people postpone going to a solicitor because making a will means dealing with things that are going to happen after they die. It’s not a particularly enticing thought.
If you don’t make a will you’ll die ‘intestate’, just like William Jennens in our last blog article. That means your estate (i.e. the assets you leave behind) will be distributed according to strict rules of probate, although if anyone contests the will then long legal arguments can ensue.
All sombre stuff, right?
Well...it doesn’t have to be, and you don’t actually have to take ‘making a will’ totally seriously if you don’t want to. In fact, plenty of people over the years have brightened up a visit to their lawyer by slipping in a few light-hearted clauses into their wills:
Singer Janis Joplin left $2,500 to pay for an all-night party at her favourite bar with the clause, “so that all my friends can get blasted when I’m gone.” And they did, a fortnight after her untimely death, in October 1970 at the Lion’s Share bar in San Anselmo, California.
US comedian Jack Benny made a provision in his will to send his beloved wife of 47 years a red rose every day for the rest of her life. She survived her late husband by eight years, so must have received over 3,000 roses!
Napoleon Bonaparte left a bizarre request in his will that his head be shaved and his hair shared out amongst his friends (although the really interesting thing about this is that 20th century science subsequently found traces of arsenic in his hair; so when he died was he actually assassinated?).
In 1891 John Bowman died leaving a fund of $50,000 to be used to maintain his Vermont mansion and employ servants who would prepare a dinner every night after his demise, “in case I come back from the dead”. This was carried out, exactly as per his wishes, until 1950...when the $50k ran out as opposed to Mr Bowman making his improbable return.
But perhaps the greatest of all wacky wills emerged from 19th century England. Social reformer Jeremy Bentham spent his lifetime publicly speaking out against many of the less enlightened societal norms and cultural standards of the age. So it perhaps wasn’t surprising when, after his death in 1832, his will revealed detailed instructions that he be preserved, stuffed and displayed in a glass-fronted cabinet in the University College London. He’s still there today, and is even wheeled over to important meetings of the Student Council, where he’s mentioned in the minutes as being ‘present but not voting’.
You might feel that Mr Bentham’s requests were a few steps too far, and if so we’d be relieved about that if we’re honest! But hopefully we’ve shown that making a will can be very much a celebration of life rather than a mourning of passing.
At QualitySolicitors we can quickly take you through the process of making a will, with the minimum of fuss.
You’ll be able to distribute your assets in exactly the way you want. You can remember certain people with certain items. You may want to leave a donation to a charity. If you have an unmarried partner, stepchildren, a carer, or close friends then they would normally be ignored by probate and inheritance law unless specifically mentioned in your will.
You can stipulate funeral wishes, name guardians for children, and there are even ways of gifting things to people before you die. There may also be techniques we can use to structure a will to (perfectly legally) minimise tax payments after your death.
You needn’t know any of this before you come to us. And you certainly needn’t plan every single decision about your will before we see you because we’re here to advise you, which we can do best when we’re discussing your circumstances face-to-face.
So please don’t feel awkward about talking to QualitySolicitors. Making a will shows you care about the welfare of your loved ones, so look at our making a will page; and from there find your local QualitySolicitors branch. Or simply call 0800 882 4964 for some Free Initial Assessment so we can quickly and efficiently ascertain exactly how we can help you.
It could even put an affectionate smile on a few people’s faces.