Making a will is a valuable spiritual exercise as well as a highly practical and normalizing procedure. Some of us avoid doing this because it is an admission that we are going to die. Not having a will can lead to unnecessary financial hardship for many families. If you die without a will, the courts dictate who receives your estate (the total of your house and its contents, car, various insurance policies and savings accounts may well come to more than you realize). The courts will also decide who should manage the affairs of your estate, and who will be your legal representatives (and what their costs may be). It is important to realize that unmarried partners may have no claim on the estate (unless 'dependant', but this could be expensive to establish). Even a legal wife or husband may have to sell the home to pay the other automatic beneficiaries. Of particular importance in the case of divorced or separated parents, the rules will determine who the legal guardians of your children will be; with a will you can name the person you would like to act as your children's guardian. The standard way to get a will drawn up is to consult a lawyer. There are steps you should take before meeting with a lawyer (this may save you time and money):


1. List all the items you have to leave - house and contents, car, savings accounts, etc. and their rough value.

2. Consider whom you would like to provide for and in what way.

3. Consider whether you would like to leave money or property 'in trusts' for children or grandchildren until they are grown up and at what age you think they should inherit your gift.

4. Decide who you would like to receive your sentimental belongings. These may be of little financial value but you can pass them on to someone you know will appreciate them.

5. Consider whether you would like to leave some money to charity (bequests to charities are not liable to inheritance tax).

6. Choose one or more executors to 'handle you affairs'. The executors can be spouses or members of the family or friends, although it is as well to get their agreement in advance.

7. Consider who you would want to be legal guardians to you children.