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Dublin: 9 °C Tuesday 23 January, 2018
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'But I'm only in my 30s': Why you should make a will

You may think there’s no point at this stage – but here are some scenarios to consider.

Image: Shutterstock/Stokkete

This article is part of our Change Generation project, supported by KBC. To read more click here.

“YOU REALLY DO NEED a will,” is one of the first things solicitor Bernadette Parte says when I walk into her office.

I am in my early thirties, I have one child and own a house with my husband. Neither of us has even thought about making a will and Parte seems a bit worried about us.

“The most important asset that anybody will ever have is their children,” the Principal of Parte and Associates tells TheJournal.ie, “If you have children who are minors, the only way you can provide for them after you’re gone is with a will.”

Not having one would mean that if we were both to die and our families couldn’t agree on who should look after our child, they will have to apply to the courts which will cost money and that comes out of the estate.

It would be far more prudent to, “decide now who you would like to mind your children in the horrible, unimaginable situation that something happens to you,” says Parte.

Nobody likes thinking about these things but it does happen and whilst you may make assumptions, you don’t know what will happen. You really are trying to reduce the rows and court applications after you are gone.

Last wishes

It isn’t just parents and property owners who should make a will, however. Parte says if you have specific requests about how you would like to be buried or if you have items of sentimental value, then you should put that in a will.

You may think you have nothing, but pretty much everybody has something. It may just be that you want a certain person to have your grandmother’s engagement ring. You don’t have to have a house or children.

TheJournal.ie put two case studies to Parte and asked her if they need a will.

30-year-old single, James

  • James has two sisters who are married with children.
  • His father, who is a widower, is aged 70.
  • James works for a private company and is a member of the company pension plan. The scheme provides some payment if he dies before retirement.
  • He also owns his own apartment with a mortgage. If he dies, the mortgage protection plan will clear the loan.
  • James has no savings.

Parte says if James does not make a will then everything in his estate will automatically pass to his father. His mortgage will be cleared and that leaves a very sizeable asset to his elderly father alone. James may have hoped to make provisions for his nieces and nephews, but they will not be entitled to anything unless it is in a will.

From a tax planning point of view, if he wishes to benefit his nieces and nephews, they’re all entitled, under the new budget, to receive €32,500 completely tax free. Generally speaking, if you leave property to just one parent they fit into category A which is €310,000 tax free. He may not know that his Dad will get absolutely everything. He may want to leave some to his Dad, his sisters and his nieces and nephews.

James is only 30 years old and he may well get married before he dies. In this case his will would automatically be revoked, unless he makes very specific legal provisions in it, says Parte.

Married couple Elaine & Brian, late 30s.

  • Elaine and Brian have two children, Siobhán aged 4 and Áine aged 6.
  • They own their own home jointly, with a mortgage.
  • Brian runs his own successful small business and has a fairly good pension.
  • He recently took out a life-assurance plan that covers both death and serious illness.
  • They also have some savings.
  • Elaine works in a private company.

If Elaine and Brian both die without having made a will then their entire estate will pass to their children, but they are just aged four and six so the court will have to award guardianship and whoever ends up looking after the Siobhán and Áine will have access to the funds of the estate to help raise them, says Parte.

The fact that no guardians have been specified by Elaine and Brian would mean there could be a disagreement between their families about who should raise them and any legal fees will come out of the estate.

That’s why in this situation it’s so important to make a will and provide for the children and consider who will be the guardians and trustees in the estate.

In the event that one of them dies, the remaining spouse and the children will be secure because they are married, says Parte. If Brian dies without a will then Elaine will inherit two-thirds of the estate, including the business, and the children will get one-sixth each.

As Brian runs his own business, Elaine may not be in a position to take it over however. Parte says a will is important in this case because a proper business succession could be included and that would mean that, “your business could continue running after you’re gone”.

Cohabiting with children

Parte says if Elaine and Brian were not married it becomes even more important that they make a will to ensure the future of their spouse is secure in the event that one of them dies.

There is no automatic succession entitlement for a cohabitant. So somebody would have to apply to the courts and say, ‘I’m a qualified cohabitant and I wish to be included in the estate of my loved one,’ and that is hell, stress and unnecessary pain at what is already a very difficult time.

Peace of mind

Making a will should “lighten people’s load, give them peace of mind knowing that they’re doing the right thing and they’re protecting their loved ones,” says Parte.

The first thing to consider is who you trust to be the executors and who you would like to administer your estate. The next step is think about how you would like to leave your estate and seek advice about how to do that.

“I would say this because I’m a solicitor,” says Parte, “but you’re getting more than your will at the end of it, you’re getting advice.”

That’s our job – to make the will as challenge-proof as possible and make sure that your beneficiaries will pay as little tax as possible.

You can find more information on making a will here.

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