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Feeling ill? Time to write a will

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One thing no-one tells you about being a parent is that you'll get every illness your child picks up at school – but you'll have it much worse than they do. While the boy suffered for a day at most with the latest sickness bug doing the rounds, I’ve now had it for three days. Obviously I know it’s not a serious illness but in my raddled, feverish state yesterday I started contemplating mortality: what would happen to junior if I dropped dead? Is it time to get a new will?

I do have a will dating back a good six or seven years but it needs serious updating: my finances and assets have changed a lot over that time. I can’t remember how much I paid the London solicitor for my will back then but it certainly wasn’t more than £200 and probably much less. Could I get it cheaper than that? Of course you don’t need a solicitor to write a will – you can buy a form from the stationers – or do it online. You can presumably write it on toilet paper if you like, as long as it is properly witnessed and signed. But a quick look online shows you can get a conventional will for less than £20. And that might work if you’ve got simple affairs (though I wouldn’t risk it personally). My affairs are complicated by the need to make provision for the boy: who would look after him? Who would manage my estate until he’s old enough to handle it himself? So I need to shell out for a proper, solicitor-written will.

However, even if you take the utmost care in writing your will, it can still be contested and your wishes ignored or altered. But a case which concluded today brings some hope that the intentions of wills should be upheld. This case involved the will of Melita Jackson. She had left all her estate to charities, but her estranged daughter, Heather Ilott, challenged this and was awarded a six-figure sum from the estate. Today the Supreme Court overturned the appeal and said all the estate should go to the charities: which after all, is what Melita Jackson wanted in the first place – and why she presumably bothered to write a will in the first place. Need help yourself? The SMM guide to writing a will is here.

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Monday, 22 April 2019