Firstly, a confession: despite the fact that I spend much of my professional life advising people of the importance of making a Will, until recently I was one of the sixty per cent of adults in England and Wales who has not made a Will. The very definition of the poorly-shod cobbler.
I could come up with a variety of reasons why I had not got round to preparing and signing this very important document for myself. Some of the more notable ones are that I was too busy, I don’t have a very large estate to leave, I have no children to worry about and I have no plans to die any time soon. But these are not so much reasons as excuses.
One morning I realised that if I was to die, everything I own would go to my parents, who are my closest blood relatives. My fiancée would not have inherited anything. This is despite the fact that we have been in a relationship for five years and are engaged to be married. The legal rules which dictate who inherits your estate if there is no will are quite brutal in the sense that they do not recognise cohabitees. This would be very unfair to the person I love and care for most in the world, and to leave things as they were would have been irresponsible at best and even callous.
Whilst I am confident that if I died my parents would do the right thing for my fiancée, I felt that I needed more certainty than that, so I made a Will leaving everything to her, because this better reflects my wishes.
But it’s not just property that can be dealt with in a Will.
Over the past few years I have seen my family struggle with deciding what funeral arrangements should be made for my grandparents, who had not left instructions. By way of an example, the question of what hymns should be sung at a Christian service celebrating the life of my grandfather, a retired geologist and engineer who had not set foot in a church for decades, was tricky to say the least.
By contrast I am happy to spare my family that task by setting out some wishes and requests for my own funeral. More than anything I don’t want a drab and dreary Victorian-style affair with everyone dressed in black. Rather I want certain pieces of music to be played and non-religious passages to be read. Far from being upsetting, it felt like I would be saying goodbye to everyone myself rather than have someone else do it for me, and probably getting it wrong.
I waited until Will Aid month to make my Will because in addition to getting a very important job ticked off my “to do” list, I also wanted to make a gift to the thousands of individuals and families around the world who benefit from the work done by the Will Aid charities.