Tuesday 19 November 2019

Readers' questions: How can I draw up a valid will on my own?

John Lowe
John Lowe

John Lowe

Q: I have put my will on the long finger and don't want to put it off any longer. I understand I can do up my own will without hiring a solicitor. How can I make sure the will stands up if I go down this route? Marie, Cobh, Co Cork

JOHN LOWE: Almost seven out of 10 people in England and Wales have not made a will, while one in 10 of those who has made a will not has told anyone about it, according to recent research by Foresters Friendly Society and the survey firm, ICM Direct.

The statistics would be similar in Ireland. However, there is a practical side in looking after your loved ones before you pass on.

Wills clarify the beneficiaries of your estate, appoint executors and legal guardians of your children (if under age), and establish trusts for disabled children.

Importantly, though, wills save a huge amount of time and hassle. If one spouse dies without leaving a will, the Succession Act 1965 kicks in and the surviving spouse receives two-thirds of the estate, with the other one-third divided equally between the children. If those children are under 18, those assets can be tied up until they become 18.

Making a will can also avoid disputes. Once there is a clear, irrevocable authorisation by way of a will, obtaining a grant of probate is a relatively simple, quick operation that can be done by anyone, not necessarily a solicitor.

If there are any complex issues regarding your estate, I would recommend a consultation first with your local solicitor. However, if you wish to draw up your own will, you'll find templates online (www.irishwills.ie, www.irishwillsonline.com and www.makeanirishwill.com to name but three). These sites will also tell you what structure you have to adopt, what signatures and witnesses you need and so on. Once completed, you should retain the original copy of the will in a safe place, letting your executor/s know both of its existence and its whereabouts. As long as you meet the regulations governing the writing of a will, the rest is plain sailing.

I'd also recommend the pre-signing of an enduring power of attorney for when you may be unable to make decisions when they still have to be made.

Q: I bought a house with my ex about seven years ago. We broke up shortly afterwards and have been renting the property since. The rent doesn't cover the mortgage - and up until now, my ex and I have been equally covering the shortfall. My ex, however, recently wrote to me and said that she would no longer cover the shortfall. Can she do this and if so, does the liability for the shortfall completely fall on me?

Gerry, Gorey, Co Wexford

JOHN: Sadly Gerry, her shortfall ultimately is your shortfall. As the mortgage is a joint and several mortgage (as most if not all home loans in joint names are), you are not only liable for your share, but your ex's share if she cannot pay. This also applies to your ex-partner should you find yourself unable to pay.

Your lender can go directly after your ex in the courts but if she has no income, the onus will be on you to meet those repayments. Get expert counsel. This may even include a Personal Insolvency Practitioner (PIP), who can set out the options and solutions.

John Lowe is founder of Providence Financial Services and author of the best-selling 'The Money Doctor 2015'

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