"Ummm...rather a lot."
I was accosted yesterday by someone on my regular pedalling route. Annoyingly someone else had mentioned I happen to have a degree in law. Naturally he was looking for free legal advice. I do not give free legal advice. I am not a lawyer. No, I am not a lawyer. Having a degree in law does not qualify me to hand out legal advice, especially while sitting on my tricycle on the footpath.
This man had obtained one of those "free will kits" from somewhere. His wife has, according to him, been nagging him for some time now about writing a will. As he is probably in his late 60's this would seem an even better idea now than it would have been when he married her forty something years ago.
There is something about writing a will which seems to bother many people. I suspect it is a sort of superstitious thing. The vast majority of us do not like to think about dying.
Succession Law was one of the more interesting compulsory subjects in Law School. People have done some strange things, some nice things, some nasty things and some downright cruel things with respect to their worldly possessions. Yes, people really do will everything they own to a dog or a cat instead of their relatives.
Sometimes people unintentionally do what they did not intend to do. More than one wife has found herself homeless when an estate has been left to children in the belief that they will "do the right thing" by their mother.
Even getting proper legal advice will not necessarily result in an estate being divided the way it was intended to be divided. Leaving someone out, giving someone less (or more), even giving equal shares when there are clearly different needs can all cause difficulties when people choose to challenge a will - and they will. It is often a nasty business. However it is often a much nastier business without a properly drawn up will.
My father, in his emotional state after my mother's death lost the original of her will before probate was granted. He accidentally left it in the photocopier at the library and nobody had the good sense or courtesy to hand it in. He had the copies he had made that day. My mother's will left everything to him if she pre-deceased him. It was very simple. There were no arguments. Her intentions were also well known. A solicitor had drawn it up and also had a copy. We sorted the situation with far less difficulty than there might have been. My father tells it as a warning story to other people.
The man who accosted me clearly thought he was leaving nothing at all to chance. His attempt to write a will went on for pages. Every item he owned had been individually listed and, next to it, the name of the intended recipient. He had listed each book, each tool, each golf club and each fishing rod. Every item that is but one. He had not mentioned the house. I happen to know the house is not in joint names. It is his house - and he had simply failed to mention the house at all. I broke my rule and gave him some legal advice, "Consult a solicitor."