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Your Last Will and Testament

Legal jargon
Whatever method is employed, a person's last will and testament has to be legal and as binding as the law allows, so the document must be drawn up in language that isn't ambiguous. It doesn't have to be littered with "heretofore's" or "not withstandings", but references should be specific. Items mentioned need to be well-described to avoid confusion, particularly where two or more are similar, or sets and collections are split between recipients. Forget the sticky labels and, wherever possible, include photographs instead. This can be most important with works of art and antiques; and it's not a bad idea to have these valued before deciding who you are going to leave them to - just in case the eventual owners start arguing over who got the most in terms of monetary value.

Specific bequests
Leaving specific amounts, especially to grandchildren, might sound like a good idea, but it can eat into the estate and leave much less for everyone else, in particular the parents of the named children. The adults could be thinking, after the fact of course, that their kids have been treated to something that should rightly have been theirs. Then, not only is respect for the deceased diminished because they are thought to have been playing favourites, but those who feel they have been cheated out of their inheritance can easily turn their animosity towards their own children. Surely, no-one wants that? Any will that contains bequests of this nature needs checking from time to time and updating to ensure the original balance intended hasn't been compromised by either an increase in possible heirs, or a gradual decrease in the value of the estate due to falling interest rates and expenses.

The cost of dying
As with anything to do with life, there is always a price to pay. Dying in particular can be a very expensive exercise, and it isn't made easy for the living when the deceased has left a financial tangle for their survivors to unravel. A legal will that sets out your wishes may have to wait its turn to be administered because there is a certain protocol to be observed. This may vary from country to country in respect of probate, death duties and taxes, and you need to check how your estate is likely to be affected and make allowances if possible. Generally, this part of the proceedings is something of a plod and will sort itself out in due course. In the meantime, family and executors have more immediate concerns. There's the funeral and how to pay for it, plus outstanding bills to clear up. A problem arises when a person dies and their finances are frozen until it is made clear who is legally entitled to draw on the available funds. If the deceased has kept their affairs secret and no-one has a clue where the money is or how to access it, the strain on the family can be overwhelming. It might be worth considering letting someone you trust into your confidence regarding accounts, passwords, etc., so that relatives don't have to dip into their own pockets before they've seen any money from your will.

Making a last will and testament could seem unnecessary right at this moment in time, but you have to face the fact that you may not be around next week. And if you do pop off suddenly, the peace of mind from knowing you haven't sparked another war of the roses is something you might actually be able to take with you.

Next issue:   Money, Money, Money! – we can’t eat it, so why do we need it?

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