The Importance of Timely Will writing: A Heart-Wrenching Lesson

by Viv King Financial Advocate

A few weeks ago, I received an urgent call from a good friend and client while I was doing my shopping in Waitrose, just down the vegetable aisle! The call was regarding a close friend of my client, let’s call him Stephen, who had been suddenly diagnosed with inoperable cancer at the age of 40, and was receiving end-of-life care in a hospice. Stephen’s situation was dire. His wife had passed away two years earlier from cancer, leaving him with two young children, aged six and eight.

Stephen’s dying wish was for his sister, Rose, to take care of his children. However, Stephen did not have a will, and no guardians had been legally appointed. My client was desperate to see if there was anything we could do to help. After some quick thinking, I considered the necessary details and dictated a will over the phone to my client, right there in the shop.

The will included the appointment of executors and guardians, and the distribution of Stephen’s estate, which mainly consisted of a life insurance policy. The plan was for Rose to handwrite the will on a blank sheet of paper, ensuring it was legible. It could then be signed by Stephen and witnessed by the hospice staff, thereby securing the future for the children.

However, as Stephen’s condition deteriorated and he started to receive palliative sedation, Rose found herself under immense pressure. Emotional and overwhelmed, she was bombarded with messages and advice from well-meaning friends and family. Feeling overpowered and in a state of shock, she reassured everyone that the will was sorted, despite it not being completed. Tragically, Stephen passed away without the will being signed.

This left his children in a precarious position. While Social Services were aware that the children were safe with Rose, her lack of legal guardianship meant she could not claim benefits or financial support, including the much-needed child benefit. Rose now faces the daunting task of applying for guardianship through the Court of Protection and seeking letters of administration to claim Stephen’s life insurance. These steps are necessary for her to gain the legal authority to care for the children and manage Stephen’s estate.

This situation could have been avoided with a simple will. If Stephen had managed to prepare his will , Rose would have been the executor and legally recognised as the children’s guardian, and the life insurance could have been paid out without delay.

The moral of this story is clear: don’t wait to write your will. We often think we have time, but the reality is that unforeseen circumstances can strike at any moment. Creating a will can alleviate anxiety and uncertainty, ensuring that our loved ones are protected and our wishes are honoured.

If you’re considering writing a will, don’t delay. It’s a straightforward step that can make a world of difference when it matters most.