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Have you made a will?

11 October 2006

History reveals some fascinating bequests in wills – some extravagant, some mean, some ironically humorous and some completely eccentric. We’ve been investigating in the run up to National Will Week.

A man called Henry Bankes left no less than £21 million to charity; George Bernard Shaw left money to increase the alphabet from 26 letters to 40; an Irishman paid back his dole of £1500 and Edward Horley, a former Mayor, sent half a lemon  to the Inland revenue with the message “now squeeze this”.

The longest will ever written was almost 96,000 words. The shortest was just to words Vse Zene wich is Czech for “all to the wife”.

A man called Lachlan McLean wrote in 1978 “I wish to die intestate” and by doing so, denied himself his wish.

Whatever McLean may have wished, it is not a sound idea to die without leaving a will – but many do. In fact two out of three people have not made a will. Of those who have, about eight out of ten of those wills are now out of date because people’s circumstances have changed.

It’s an alarming thought that so many of us will leave behind a mess for someone else to sort out because we don’t bother to make a will.

Parliament devised a set of rules in 1883 to try to avoid the suffering, heartache and bitterness which ca be caused when someone dies intestate (without a will). The ‘Intestacy Rules’ are designed to make sure that the estate passes through the bloodline.

Consequently, if there is no will and there are children, the surviving spouse won’t inherit the whole estate. A wdow may find herself inheriting only a lifetime interest in half the estate because the Intestacy Rules require that the children inherit their father’s estate when their mother dies.

The same ‘bloodline’ rule can even mean that distant relatives, sometimes unknown to the deceased, will inherit the estate.

A professionally drawn will is the way to ensure that your assets go where you want them to. As such, a will may be the most important personal document you will ever complete.

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Simon Cook LLB (Hons), TEP
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