Throughout most of the world, disposal of an estate has been a matter of social custom. According to Plutarch, one of the best known Greek biographers and essayist, the written will was invented by Solon, an Athenian politician and lawmaker born in 638BC and was originally a device intended solely for men without an heir.
So much has changed of course but at present, will writing campaign group Will Aid indicate that only around half of the adults in the UK have made a will. By asking a cross section of people with a will what caused them to make one, Will Aid discovered that one of the commonest reasons was hitting a significant birthday. 20% of those interviewed said landmark birthdays such as turning 30, 40 or 50 were one of the primary reasons for making their first will. There are indeed other milestone moments that prompt writing a will such as getting married, having a child or buying your first property.
In reality though it does not matter how old you are or whatever your circumstances, having a professionally drawn up will in place is the best way to ensure your wishes are met after your death as you should never assume that your assets will automatically pass to the people closest to you.
Key reasons for making a will include:
- Reassurance: A will is the best way to help ensure your savings and possessions go to the people and causes that you care about.
- Avoiding disputes. Disputes over assets can arise among family members. By leaving a will you remove any doubt about how you want your estate dealt with.
- Looking after your children. A will allows you to appoint legal guardians for your children.
- Your funeral: Your will can be a way to let people know whether you would prefer to be buried or cremated, and the type of funeral service and music you would like.
There have been a number of notable wills through time. The Nobel Prizes were established by Alfred Nobel’s will. The longest known legal will is that of Englishwoman Frederica Evelyn Stilwell Cook. It was 1066 pages and had to be bound in four volumes. The shortest known legal wills are those of Bimla Rishi of Delhi, India “all to son” and Karl Tausch of Hesse ,Germany “all to wife” both containing only two words in the language they were written in (Hindi and Czech respectively). While your own will may not make the headlines it still is extremely important to have one.