Talking to your family about your will

It’s hardly the perfect conversation to have over dinner, but talking about your last will and testament might be one of the most important discussions you ever have – both for you and your loved ones.

Guides

By talking to your family about your will, you can make sure that all of your wishes are clearly laid out and agreed upon by those who matter most – after all, it’s them who will be left with the task of carrying out your wishes when you’re no longer around.

With that in mind, here’s some advice on how to navigate an important, but potentially awkward conversation about your will with your children, partner, parents and other loved ones.

Why it’s good to talk about your plans

It is not uncommon for family relationships to be, at best, rocky – and after a significant life event such as a death, this could be amplified tenfold.

The period that immediately follows death is always traumatic, and when emotions are running high, it’s easy for loved ones to become distressed and argue amongst each other if there isn’t a predetermined plan in place. 

And while you won’t be able to act as a mediator once you’ve passed away, the next best thing is to make sure that your nearest and dearest are clear on what you’d like to happen after your death.

Contrary to popular belief, writing a will isn’t just a matter of who-gets-what. You’ll also need to discuss who you would like to execute your final wishes, who will witness the signing of your will and you’ll need to begin planning for any potential steps you could take to reduce the impact of Inheritance Tax.

Before talking to your family – Preparing for ‘the talk’

Before openly discussing your plans and preferences with your family, it’s a good idea to take a few moments to yourself to decide what you want your will to outline, and what you’d like to clarify during the conversation with your loved ones.

You can do this by:

Deciding on your goals – think about who would benefit from receiving assets within your estate, and consider what legacy you’d like to leave. You may decide that you’d like to leave money to a charity you’re associated with, ensure that your children/grandchildren get the very best education or ensure that any of your dependents are financially provided for in the long-run.

Make notes – try not to go into the conversation without at least a rough idea of what you’d like to talk about. Make a few notes of the most important talking points to ensure that these aren’t forgotten. This will also give you time to consider what needs to be in your will that you may not have thought about at first, such as potential life insurance payouts or investments.

Write a rough draft – if you have a rough draft of your will to hand, you’ll likely already know why you’ve made your decisions. This can make it easier for you to explain your case in the event of a disagreement. Remember, it is your will and nobody else can or should try to influence your decisions.

Schedule your talk – springing such a sensitive topic of conversation on your family without any warning might not be a good idea. Some family members may be more sensitive than others, which could cause them to react differently to how they would if they’d had some time to think about it first.

During the conversation

Once you’ve arranged a time to discuss the ins and outs of your will with your family, there should first be a few discussion points which you should have in mind.

Explain why – whether you’ve been given a health scare, been influenced by a TV show or received a piece of advice from a friend, a good way to start this sensitive conversation is by explaining exactly why you’ve decided to write a will.

Give reasons – if you’ve got specific wishes, try to explain your reasons briefly without going into the financial details (unless you want to and feel it’s appropriate). Explain what you hope to achieve, whether that’s a guaranteed education for your grandchildren, financial security for your spouse or a helping hand for a local charity.

Go into detail – if you don’t fully explain your reasons behind the decisions you’ve made, some may find them hard to comprehend. For example, if you’ve decided to leave your car to one child rather than the other, ensure that you explain your logic as to why.

Accept suggestions – although nobody can force your hand when it comes to naming beneficiaries in your will, it’s important that you ask for the opinions of others in your family. Encourage them to speak their minds as they may have ideas that you had not thought of, or a love for a sentimental object, such as a piece of jewellery or furniture.

Remember that nothing is permanent – whether another child enters the family, somebody passes away before you or you become estranged from one of your beneficiaries, it’s important to stress that these are your wishes if you were to die today and changes can (and should) be made in the future if any life events occur.

Be tactful – as hard as you may try, it’s unlikely that you’ll truly please everybody when writing your will. The topic of inheritance is a particularly tricky one to navigate and it can easily cause upset. Tread carefully and make it clear that you mean no harm.

Afterwards

Once you and your family have discussed the intended contents of your last will and testament, there are 2 things you can now do to make it an official legal document.

1. Review your will – now that you’ve held discussions with your family, you may want to read over your plan/draft one more time to make sure that it works for you. If, for some reason, the discussion with your family was particularly heated, you may want to leave it a few days before going back to review it – you could also ask somebody that you trust, like a close friend, to look through it with you.

2. Write your will – once you’re ready to write your will, you can start the online will making process with us. You can complete your will anywhere on any device and if you have any questions during the process, our team have the experience to guide you and secure the future for both your doting family and your hard-earned assets.

Creating a will shouldn’t be a difficult task, and thanks to Wills Services, it doesn’t have to be!