The will and the way to write one

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The Independent Online
ONE OF the things that we should all get done in life is the making of a will. You know that. I know that. We all know that. Yet how many of us have done anything about it? Not many, I fear. I certainly haven't.

Not many, at any rate, judging from the official statistics, which show that 67.3 per cent of British people die intestate. Do you know what intestate means? Not many people do, I'm afraid, according to the latest statistics, which show that when asked what intestate means: 10 per cent said 'hot-headed'; 24 per cent said 'unable to have children'; 12 per cent said 'that part of the body through which digested food goes and that rumbles loudly in company for reasons which no scientist seems able to explain, least of all find a cure for'; and 46 per cent thought that Intestate was the name of a now bankrupt US airline.

Only 8 per cent gave the correct answer, that intestate means 'running the risk of giving the government or your ex-spouse all your hard-earned possessions after your death by not making a will'.

Oh yes, we have all said we would make a will. Some of us have even got as far as purchasing one of those will forms from somewhere like W H Smith, and read the accompanying booklet. But we haven't done anything about it, have we?

Why not? Is it because of an obscure suspicion that, however well we make out the will, W H Smith will get all the money? Relax] Although it is true that many people who have filled in will forms purchased from stationers or motorway service areas have ended up mysteriously leaving all their money to that stationer or garagiste, it is, in fact, easy to put a clause in your will, stressing that none of the money under any circumstances must go to any branch of W H Smith. Or anyone, apart from your loved ones.

And that brings us to the big problem with wills, doesn't it? Either we have no loved ones, or we do have loved ones, but we can't stand them and therefore want to postpone as long as possible the moment when we make a will in their blasted favour. Am I right? I think I am. And this is the sort of advice that you don't get from the W H Smith booklet, or indeed from your solicitor.

'I want to leave all my money to the government to be spent on Trident,' you tell him. 'Will my wife and children be able to overturn my will?'

The faint smile playing over your solicitor's features should tell you that not only can they overturn the will, but that he will get a good slice of the action. So what you need is neither professional advice, nor a will form bought from a shop that also sells Motor Bike Lover Weekly and records from the Top 20.

What you need is the unrivalled service offered by this column. So let's make a will now. Yes, now] Stop whatever you're doing, go and get a bit of paper and write down what I tell you to put. Here we go. Put a big heading at the top saying This Is The Last Will And Testament Of . . . This bit, incidentally, is usually done in ornate, squiggly black illegible lettering of the kind beloved by lawyers, but it is quite legal to write it legibly.

Now, draw a box and write beside it: 'Tick here if you want no publicity.' Then put a tick in it. This will make sure you don't get featured in those ghastly columns called 'Recent Wills', which reveal how much money you forgot to spend before you died and attract letters from money-grabbing charities . . .

That reminds me. If you don't want to leave any money to charity, and are afraid that through soft-mindedness you will leave a few thousand pounds to dogs or cats, write at the top: 'Any bequest to charity in this will is hereby declared null and void.' Right. Now write: 'I, being of sound mind, do declare that this will cancels all previous and subsequent wills.'

That surprised you, didn't it? You thought that it was normal only to cancel previous wills. But there is a good chance that you will go soft in your old age and make a new will leaving money to people who died years ago or donkeys' homes, or, even worse, to the government to help buy one of those dreadful paintings for the nation that hard-up dukes want to sell - anyway, you want to make sure now, when you are compos mentis, that you don't undergo any change of mind later when you are in your dotage or a High Court judge . . .

Damn. We seem to have run out of space. Oh well - we can do your will some other day. We are bound to get round to it. There's plenty of time, after all, isn't there? Of course there is]