Life Family Features

Saturday 20 September 2014

Where there's a will... there is peace of mind and far fewer family feuds

A small investment now could increase the nest egg you leave behind.

Grainne Cunningham

Published 26/08/2014 | 02:30

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Voters had enough austerity and they're turning to whoever will make things better for them
Voters had enough austerity and they're turning to whoever will make things better for them

As the old saying goes, there are only two certainties in life - death and taxes. But those two unpleasant inevitabilities are often bound together. If you die intestate, the State may be due more death taxes than if you had made a valid will and people you are close to could lose out financially to relatives you barely knew.

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Writing a will may be a task we are reluctant to think about but a simple document, giving you a voice from beyond the grave, could save your loved ones a seriously expensive headache after you are gone.

A will is a legally binding document which allows you to dictate how your property will be distributed upon your death. There are strict rules as to who inherits when you die without a will (or intestate). Your entire assets are frozen until someone is appointed to take charge of your estate and divide it in accordance with the Law of Intestacy.

Your nearest and dearest may have to pay for your funeral, an expense you could have spared them by providing for it in your will. Worse, some random relative could inherit a substantial part of what you own, while another relation you were very fond of may get nothing. Your children could end up with guardians you would not have chosen and inheritance tax may have to be paid unnecessarily.

Solicitor Treasa Howell, who runs Howell and Co law firm in Clondalkin, Dublin, urges anyone with young children or other dependants to write a will.

You can nominate guardians and give them responsibility for making sure your children are properly looked after by people you trust.

She also advises couples who live together but who are not married to make a will. "In such cases, if one partner dies without a valid will, then the surviving co-habitee may inherit nothing, unless they are already joint owners of the home they share," she says.

There are 'DIY' kits available for those who would like to put their affairs in order without a solicitor - but beware. Wills are only valid if you stick to very precise rules and an invalid will may be challenged or disregarded altogether.

For example, you may gift an item to someone in your will, but the name you use does not match the name on their birth certificate.

People often try to bequeath assets that are jointly owned - typically the family house. You can't simply leave 'your' half of it to a child if it is owned as joint tenants, as is often the case.

So getting your solicitor to write a will for you can save you lots of money in the long run and it's not a major expense, given the peace of mind you get, Treasa advises.

A simple will costs €50 plus VAT with Howell & Co and should require only one consultation to finalise.

Distributing your wealth wisely through your will can help to reduce or eliminate the amount of inheritance tax which must be paid.

This is the tax paid by a beneficiary on the inheritance that they 
receive.

For instance, you can leave €225,000 to one of your children, or €30,150 to a sibling, niece or nephew, without them having to pay tax.

Anyone else can inherit €15,075 tax-free.

Irish Independent

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