3 common estate planning mistakes that could hurt your loved ones (and how to avoid them)

Between 2 and 8 December, many will mark Grief Awareness Week. A time for seeking help when you need it, Grief Awareness Week lets us ruminate on how we can help ourselves and our loved ones through impossibly difficult times.

Indeed, although it might seem the last thing on your priority list at the time, financial difficulty can extrapolate your stress in a time of grief.

If you lose a loved one, the matter of inheritance can be an emotional subject for all the family – and if their plans are unclear, this inherited wealth can quickly become a source of angst.

What’s more, MoneyAge reports that since the pandemic (between 2019 and 2021), inheritance disputes jumped by a worrying 37%. Will disputes can be costly, emotionally strenuous, and cause rifts in families after a loved one has died.

Luckily, you can take steps to avoid making key errors during the estate planning process – and we’re here to help.

Here are three avoidable estate planning mistakes that could hurt your loved ones in future – and how not to make them – ahead of Grief Awareness Week.

1. Writing an ambiguous will

If you have a will in place, it is important to regularly review it, updating it as you progress through your later years. Your will is the central tenet of all your estate plans, where you can express your wishes for how your hard-earned wealth will be distributed to those you love most.

However, ambiguous or incomplete wills can provide immense stress for your beneficiaries.

Key mistakes individuals can make when writing their will include:

  • Leaving valuable items, such as vehicles, jewellery, or properties out of the will altogether
  • Keeping previously sold assets, such as your old home or investments you have cashed in, in your will after they are gone
  • Using unclear wording that could be misinterpreted by family members or professionals
  • Failing to update a will – for example, if you have new children or grandchildren or if you remarry
  • Allowing beneficiaries to “decide amongst themselves” how to split certain assets.

Any of these examples could lead to costly and emotionally trying legal proceedings if beneficiaries cannot agree on how to divide your assets.

Alternatively, there is a simple solution to writing an ambiguous will.

Indeed, by reviewing your will annually with the help of an expert, and adding or removing assets where appropriate, can keep it crystal clear for when the time comes.

Your Kellands financial planner can connect you to a legal expert who can help you lay out a detailed will, with no vague wording or unclear messages.

2. Putting off estate planning until it’s too late

You may be surprised to learn that, according to Canada Life research, 59% of UK adults do not have a will.

Alarmingly, the research discovered that:

  • More than half (51%) of adults aged between 55 and 64 have not written a will at all.
  • More than one-third (39%) of those aged 65 to 74 have no will in place.
  • An amazing 22% of over-75s do not have a will.

If you have not made a will at all, now is the time to get in touch – even if you have not yet reached “old age”.

Remember: your will is the backbone of your estate plans. If you die intestate, your loved ones are unable to decide how your wealth is inherited, and your assets will be distributed according to intestacy law – perhaps in ways that don’t reflect your wishes.

However, making a will is not the only aspect of estate planning you should be thinking about.

Indeed, while you are fit and healthy, it is important to consider other crucial factors. These include:

  • Thinking about reducing the value of your estate before you die, to mitigate the amount of Inheritance Tax (IHT) your beneficiaries will pay
  • Finalising other essential documents, including registering a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) in case you become incapacitated, and completing an “expression of wish” form with your pension provider
  • Considering how your loved ones could benefit from protection, especially life cover.

If you feel overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork and forward thinking involved in the estate planning process, you are not alone. That’s where your Kellands financial planner comes in.

We can help you get your affairs in order before you become unwell or very elderly, so you and your family can gain peace of mind as you approach your later years.

3. Keeping family members in the dark

Although discussing the eventuality of your death is not pleasant, keeping family members in the dark about your estate plans could be a big mistake.

If your beneficiaries are unsure how much they are set to inherit, they could be in for a shock when you pass away.

A 2019 study published by MoneyAge reported that the average UK adult expects a windfall of £132,000 from their parents when they pass away. In reality, the average inheritance that year stood at £50,000 – making it clear that many people overestimate the sum they are set to inherit.

To avoid your loved ones experiencing disappointment or confusion when you pass away, it is important to discuss your plans with your beneficiaries as early as possible.

This strategy could bring the family closer together, help avoid difficult conversations after you pass away, and allow the younger generations to plan for the future more accurately.

Get in touch

Here at Kellands, we can help the whole family discuss financial matters.

For guidance on inheritance, IHT, or completing estate planning documents, email us at hale@kelland.co.uk, or call 0161 929 8838.

Written by Madeleine Goode.

Please note

This article is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate estate planning, tax planning or will writing.


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